Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Road to Sochi - U.S. Speedskating Olympic Trials 2014

Track records on the fastest ice on earth - Utah Olympic Oval

I love living in an Olympic city. Salt Lake City is the only Olympic host city still using all of its venues more than ten years after the 2002 Olympic Games. I was looking for something fun to do over Christmas break with the family, and was thrilled to find out several sports were having their U.S. Olympic trials in Utah venues.  We chose to spend an evening at the short-track speedskating competition.

Torchbearer at the Kearns Olympic Oval

I discovered that I could get two for one tickets to this competition if we wore either 2002 Winter Olympic gear, or Utah sports logo wear. Time to haul out the torchbearer jacket! We got the whole family in to the Olympic trials for $4 a person. Bargain entertainment, if you ask me!  Before we went into the Olympic Oval, we walked around the "Road to Sochi" booths and tried our hand at sliding on a sheet designed to mimic speed skating. Other booths included curling, and a photo opportunity in a bobsled.  We also picked up trading cards.

Probably the closest I will come to bobsledding!

We headed inside and chose general admission seats on the curve. Speedskating athletes zoom by very quickly (in short-track, a lap takes only 8 seconds) and I wanted to take photos. The curve is a natural place for shooting pictures.  I loved seeing all the flags hanging from the rafters. We also saw team members from Kazakhstan. I am assuming they are spending some pre-Olympic time training in Salt Lake City.

Athletes warming up before the competition - Utah Olympic Oval

I saw the 1500 meter competition the night I went to the ice sheet.  The skaters competed in semi-final rounds, and then there were 3 finals (C, B and A). After a break, the whole process repeated, so these athletes raced a 1500 four times during the time we were there.  Short-track speedskating is appealing because it is visually stunning as the athletes round the curve. There is an artistry to the way they line up, and the angles at which they skate are incredible. It also has all the intensity of high speed and potential chaos. Since J.R. Celski was injured four years ago (his leg was sliced by a skate blade), short track competition suits have added a layer of  Kevlar to protect these athletes from the razor sharp skate blades if they fall. Crashes are a part of the competition. If your skate blade crosses the finish line first, you win, even if you are no longer standing when you cross the line.

Beauty of short track

We found seats by "Team Celski" who were out in force cheering for J.R.   Eddy Alvarez, who trains in Salt Lake City also, was another crowd favorite. I sat in front of a lady planning to spend 3 weeks in Russia at the 2014 Olympic Games. She had attended Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, Vancouver, and Torino. We were also near Jessica Smith's mom. After Jessica won the first A final of the 1500, we congratulated her mother, who informed us she had to do it all again in the second session. But no stress for the mom! It was great to watch her face as she watched her daughter compete.

Short-track is exciting, and I was torn between taking photos (which I love to do), and watching the race for the quick passes an athlete makes to go from the middle of the pack to the front.

Jessica Smith (red helmet) getting ready to make a move.

Jessica Smith takes the lead.

Between sessions we wandered the Oval, got snacks, and met long-track speedskating Olympic team members who had competed earlier in the week.  We got autographed photos and wished them well in Sochi.

Part of Team USA:  Heather Richardson, Sugar Todd, Joey Mantia, and Brian Hansen
Long-track Speedskating

We found ourselves rooting for Eddy Alvarez, who had also overcome injuries to compete in this Olympic trials. And of course, it was easy to join with Team Celski cheering for J.R.

Eddy Alvarez prepares for his final.

The men's 1500 heats up.

J.R. Celski gives love to his fans after his race.

When the Olympic trials were over, the US had 3 women and 5 men named to the short-track team.  The women won't have a relay this year, but we will still be cheering for all our U.S. athletes as they compete in Sochi. We were fortunate to see short-track speedskating at the 2002 Winter Olympics, and I loved watching this sport in person again.

The following athletes will represent Team USA for short-track speedskating:  (Women) Alyson Dudek, Jessica Smith, and Emily Scott.  (Men) J.R. Celski, Eddy Alvarez, Chris Creveling, Jordan Malone and Kyle Carr.

Short-track Speedskating U.S. Olympic Trials 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Art of New Year's Resolutions - 2014

Boats at Versailles

I think everyone loves the idea of a fresh start, and that is the appeal of making resolutions on January 1. It seems, though, that most resolutions fail, so I often find myself wondering if I should bother. However, I am fresh off the success of last year's resolution to "read more books," and I am feeling motivated to accomplish some things in 2014!

Why do resolutions fail? In doing research, it seems that most fail either by being too large, too small, too vague,or too unattainable. I also read, however, that people are resistant to change, so making a long list of resolutions that require big changes in your life may not give you the best chances at success.

Goals that are written and planned out are more likely to be kept. Success with resolutions is also linked to accountability, and that is why I am writing my goals in this blog!

For me, this year, I am choosing to improve on some things, and to add back in to my life things that I enjoy. I would love to make a resolution to spend 4 months touring Europe this year, but since I know that one isn't going to happen, I am choosing more reachable goals. In 2014, I want better balance. I am setting goals in different areas of my life:  physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and artistic.  Thank goodness I have been going to the gym regularly for the last 3 months, so I don't have to make that a new goal!

Physically, I plan to keep exercising, and to get enough water to drink! Believe it or not, I actually have to work at staying hydrated. I am tempted to commit to a 5K race, but the last two times I did that, I ended up having to drop out (cancer treatments in 2012 and a broken ankle in 2013). So this year, I am NOT committing to the 5K and am hopeful that publicly NOT committing will give me better results. If my body cooperates and gets through the next several months in good form, there is a hike I have always wanted to do just calling my name.

Intellectually, I am going to learn some new computer skills (Excel), define my TBR (to be read list) and commit to reading certain books this year. I also wouldn't mind reading more books than last year (I read 66 in 2013). On my list so far are "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin and "Gift From the Sea" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. There are so many books on my shelf waiting to be read! Here are 5 more I am committing to read this year:  "Night" by Elie Wiesel, "The Kitchen House" by Kathleen Grissom, "Off the Map: A Journey Through the Amazon Wild" by John Harrison, "Custom of the Country" by Edith Wharton, and "Much Ado About Nothing" by William Shakespeare.

For my emotional goals, I am going to do something each month to connect with friends and family in a non-electronic way. This means going to lunch, having people over to play games, writing actual notes and letters, planning specific things to do with my husband and children, etc.

Spiritually, I am going to make time daily for prayer and scripture study. This is sort of a constant goal for me, and at times I do it really well. Sometimes I lapse, and that is why this one is always on the list!

And on the creative side, I am going to draw, write, and finish a couple of nagging projects (a scrapbook for my daughter and a cross-stitch Christmas stocking for my son).  Now, just a thought about the whole drawing thing. I am married to an artist (hence the title of the blog). Not just any artist, but a really talented, skilled, professional, recognition-earning artist. I know people who don't want to play Pictionary with him because...well...they find it intimidating. So, for me to say "I am going to draw" is a big deal. I have dabbled in art over the years. I took classes in high school. I have taken a couple of classes on the side since then. Mostly I have a love-hate relationship with art.  I have never worked at it enough to get what I see in my head and what my hand puts down on paper to look the same (many of you know what I am talking about). But when I leave art for long periods of time, I miss it. In 2014, I am going to do that drawing of the boats in the pond at Versailles that I have wanted to do since I took the photos in 2008. I am going to draw some birds in my birding journal. And the best part of all is that I know my art-husband will be my biggest fan!

Henry David Thoreau said "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

I am excited to get going on these goals this year! What are you imagining in 2014?