Sochi 2014: Soaking Balance

Matt Margetts (CAN) competes in men’s ski halfpipe qualification during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

I’m a strong believer in things being cyclical, that is, nature finding a balance for everything in life. Today, nature balanced out all those days I shot cross country skiing here at the Winter Olympics comfortably in a t-shirt by unleashing a day filled with cold temperatures, along with a constant downpour of rain and snow thrown in for good measure.

Of course, events at the Winter Olympics aren’t canceled just because weather isn’t ideal. As long as safety of the athletes isn’t a factor, things will go on as scheduled. For us photographers, that means that we have to photograph the entire event (tonight’s being Men’s Ski Halfpipe) as we normally would.

A Russian fan holds an umbrella at the rainy Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

Special rain covers are fitted over our cameras, and all-weather clothing is deployed in an attempt to stay dry. My Columbia winter coat says “WATERPROOF” right on the sleeve, in fact, but it was no match for six hours of constant precipitation. By the end of the night, my coat and snow pants (made of the same material) were drenched! I will say that my street clothes underneath remained fairly dry.

My Setwear cold weather work gloves didn’t do so well. I was wringing the water out of them throughout the night. With that much water in my gloves, you can imagine how numb my fingers were by the end of the evening.

The halfpipe was shrouded in heavy fog and rain during the practice session prior to qualifications.

Despite all the physical discomfort, the snowy conditions provided a fantastic backdrop for the athletes. In my images, and even in person, I thought the snowfall was beautiful. The flakes were some of the largest I’ve ever seen, and they provided a fresh look to a course I’ve already shot two events on.

Hours later, as I lay in bed completing this entry, I’m being serenaded by the intermittent thunderous booms of avalanche control cannons from the mountains above our apartment! My roommate Nathan, who’s an avid skier, explained that in most instances they’re fired via air or natural gas, and create a pressure wave which knocks snow loose little by little, instead of it all sliding down at once uncontrollably. It’s a different life here, that’s for sure.

Benoit Valentin (FRA) competes in men’s ski halfpipe qualification.

Snow accumulates on the trees higher up the mountain.

Justin Dorey (CAN) during a practice run for men’s skl halfpipe finals.

Conditions didn’t improve much for the finals. All the skiers pictured in the halfpipe here are called, “Slippers.” The slippers arrange themselves in a V and ski down the halfpipe sideways, effectively creating a giant plow to remove all the loose bits of snow and ice that accumulate at the bottom.

Noah Bowman (CAN) competes in his first run of men’s skil halfpipe finals.

Justin Dorey (CAN) hits the deck on his first run in the finals.

Noah Bowman (CAN) competes in his second run of men’s skil halfpipe finals.

Kevin Roland (FRA) on his final run.

David Wise (USA) competes in his first run of men’s skil halfpipe finals during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.. Wise would go on to take the gold medal.

Guy’s Russian Word of the Day is, “снег,” pronounced, “Snyck,” meaning, “Snow,” as in, “The снег tonight made for some beautiful images!”

Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Sochi Winter Olympics, Sports, Travel by Guy Rhodes on February 18th, 2014.

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