Sunday, March 07, 2010

paralympic blog, day -1

I’m on the Team USA bus from Vancouver Airport up to Whistler. Skies are gray and it’s cold and rainy outside, but spirits are high and someone has a DVD of Dumb & Dumber playing on the bus’s TVs. The Sea-To-Sky Highway provides some ridiculously dramatic views of B.C.’s coastal inlets, mountains, straits, fjords and whatnot before we turn inland and start climbing uphill.

The flight from Denver was easy enough — I even managed to finagle a seat in First — but loading and unloading 10 or 12 wheelies on one plane took a good while. (We traveled with the curling team.) As soon as we cleared passport control, Vancouver 2010 staff were waiting to issue us our athlete credentials. The credential is a laminated, hologrammed card as big as a DVD case that you have to wear around your neck for just about every waking moment at the Games. Security is generally as tight as you might expect for a big international event. Some people even wear their credentials underneath their race suits while competing, so as not to be caught without it if selected for doping control in the finish area. When we had our head shots taken for our credentials a month or two ago, we were told we couldn’t smile, so all of us look deadly serious in the photos.

Joe Tompkins has convinced the bus driver to stop at a roadside Subway, and everyone is chowing down on sandwiches. Soon we’ll arrive at the Whistler Paralympic Village and begin settling into our dorm rooms, learning our way around the place, getting dinner and inevitably convening for the first of many alpine team meetings. I don’t know yet who my roommate or roommates will be for the duration of the Games, but I do know it will be someone I’ve shared with before — I think I’ve probably roomed with every U.S. male disabled skier that’s skied a World Cup race in the last 10 years. Who I’m assigned could have a big effect on my mental state for the next 15 days.

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