Sunday, January 29, 2006

shiga kogen

Arrived in Japan last night after a long travel day. Yesterday my roommate, Brad, and I overslept and almost missed our 3 a.m. (!) bus ride from our hotel in Korea to the Seoul airport. The bus ride that was projected to take 6 hours only took about 3, so we had a lot of time to kill in the airport. Ate some breakfast and wrote some postcards, then hopped a plane to Tokyo where we loaded our gear into a huge cargo truck. You should really see what it's like to travel with our team. We each have five or six bags; for me that includes one huge duffel with all my skiwear and street clothes, one huge bag containing my monoski, one backpack full of helmets, goggles, gloves and the like, and two ski bags each containing two pairs of skis. Imagine that times twenty or so people, plus two waxing benches, a massage table, half a dozen large plastic boxes of team equipment, and sometimes even a couple bundles of gates, and you have some idea of how much crap we haul around with us. Let me tell you, trying to push around one of those little airport baggage carts loaded up with all five of my bags is no easy feat.

From Narita Airport in Tokyo it was a six-hour trip across Honshu to Shiga Kogen (map), in Nagano Prefecture. This ski area was the host for the Olympic GS and slalom and all the Paralympic alpine events for the 1998 winter games. I spent most of the ride talking with Cho, our team's volunteer interpreter for the duration of these races. She's a Chinese girl from Shanghai who's now attending university in Tokyo; her English is good and her Japanese is excellent, or so I'm told. We had a great conversation about disabilities, movies, Chinese democracy — the whole gamut.

Our hotel is right at the base of several ski lifts; there are ski racks literally right outside the front door. In fact, the only way in and out of the hotel for us monoskiers is by ski or by snowmobile. Tomorrow we race slalom, but today is an off day, so while some people are out skiing I've decided to just chill here in the hotel lobby/dining room with its yummy food, hot coffee, and free wireless Internet access. The hotel probably dates from the 1960s or '70s, and it's a great mix of traditional and modern. Most of the rooms have futons and tatami mats for sleeping, although the one I'm sharing with Nick and Tyler has Western-style beds.

In case you were wondering how Friday's second super G race turned out, it was a bit of a disappointment after Thursday. I had a sweet run going two-thirds of the way down the course, but tried to start going too straight too early on the lower flats and had to throw in a huge evasive maneuver to make a gate. I pretty much dumped all my speed and any chance at a podium; I ended up eighth and Chris won again. At least I was still second among the Americans in my class. (full results)

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