Wednesday, February 18, 2009

World University Games 2009/ Harbin, China

Thanks to my professors at the University of Nevada, our coaching staff and the German University Sports Federation I got to go to China for World University Games this year. I will have to skip Regionals at home this weekend, but I'm confident that the Pack will do great without me and I'll be back next week in order to prepare for NCAA's out in Maine to finish my senior year.

After I checked in at the Reno airport on Saturday around noon, I ran into the first trouble on my trip: my flight to San Francisco was delayed! Luckily I got as a stand-by on a earlier flight but I knew my bags would not make it because there was only one flight from San Francisco to Beijing every day. So after my 12 hour flight (over Alaska and Siberia) I got to Beijing and had to deal with telling Air China that my luggage was lost which was not really a big deal. At 11:30 pm local time on Sunday I arrived at the Harbin Airport where a Czech Hockey player and a US hockey referee got already pulled out of the Chinese crowed in the gateway. 3 young Chinese followed me to the luggage area and after I told them 5 times that my luggage is not going to be there I had 5 more Chinese people around me (including 2 policemen!!!) and one of the spoke fluent English... Me and my (personal) Chinese-German translator lady were planing on driving the 200 km southeast to the Yabuli Ski Resort (the venue for all the skiing sports) but it was snowing so hard that our Driver turned around and we stayed in a Hotel in Harbin where I finally went to bed at 1:45 am. I went to breakfast at 6:30 am on Monday in the Hotel where I got served toast with Jam, a hard boild egg (pretty normal), fried pork (know to Germans as Schnitzel), chinese pasta with a tomato sauce and potato soup!!! I was hungry so I ate it and thought: well... somewhere on the globe it's lunch time, so just go for it! As a German I should've no problem with eating Schnitzel or pasta, but for breakfast?! Oh well...
Me and my translator lady took the train together with other teams (Italians, Canadians and a bunch of journalists) to Yabuli. The (really nice) train took us through the rural areas of China and I saw some really poor towns. When we arrived at the Yabuli ski resort train station there was another security point, with hundreds of policemen. I had to go through metal detectors and a bunch of I.D.-checks to get even in town! A bus took us to the Athletes Village, again: no way in without identification and policemen at the door! After I checked in with the German team I got in my really nice room from where I could see the alpine slopes and the ski jumps. The XC ski area is also only 10 minute walk away. I borrowed a pair of running shoes from one of our nordic combined guys and went for a 45 minute run in the ski resort.
The day after (on Tuesday) I finally got my bags at 2 pm and was able to check out the Nordic venue. The courses are well prepared and consist of 59 % artificial snow, 39% natural snow and 2 % sand which the high winds in the last days were responsible for. The skate course for (a 5 km lap) flows pretty well... There are a lot of gradual uphills which should be good for me coming from high elevation and just a few steeper hills. The classic and skate course for the pursuit race is definitely harder and the mix of snow is going to make it hard to wax but I'm sure Fabian our service man will figure it out.
Last night we went back to Harbin for the opening ceremony which was quite a spectacle. I think at Olympic games it takes just a little longer and it's a bigger stadium, but all in all our entire team (a mix of ski jumpers, Nordic Combined, Cross Country skiers, Ski-Cross skiers as well as coaching staff, doc, and physio) was very impressed with the show, the fireworks and the lighting of the (Universiade) flame. Streets in Harbin were closed for traffic to let our busses through and again, police everywhere and without a credential you don't get anywhere!
Today, I tested my skies and with temperatures between -18 C and - 8 C (0F and 18 F) there was no problem at all. My legs are still a little heavy from the standing around last night but I look forward to tomorrows 10 km individual skate race which starts at 9:30 am local time. I'll also do the skate sprint on Saturday and the pursuit on Monday before I fly back to Reno on Tuesday to back the Pack in preparation for NCAA's.

The colorful opening ceremony covered every topic: snow&ice, environment and of course China! I realized really quick thought that the we're not supposed to see the actual, rural China, everywhere we go we're followed by police and officials. I talked to a Canadian coach who had to leave the ski resort for an "emergency" (his heat gun was broken) and went in to the acutal town of Yabuli and he said: no cars, a few motobikes, lots of carts and mules.

Myself, after walking through the stadium with the German Team during the opening ceremony.

Our very small Cross Country Team: myself and Marion Ruf, waiting for the opening ceremony to start with the German Team.

The Nordic trails, yesterday, which was a pretty nice day. The stadium is awesome if the start and finish would not be the steepest uphill start and finish I've ever seen...

Go Pack and bleed blue!

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