Oxana's Olympic experience

February 25, 2014
By Oxana Shkrebtienko
Photos © LMDJ

The main reason I decided to go to the Olympics was to support Brian Joubert. Being a devoted fan of his, I’'ve tried not to miss a single competitive event during his recent seasons. And it was impossible for me to miss the Olympics in Sochi, which took place in my own country, and which was to be the last competition of his career.

As for the organization of the event, I have mixed feelings, both positive and negative. Of course I understand it’s impossible to organize such a huge competition without a single blunder. But the biggest disappointment for me was the ticketing cost and procedure. I personally know dozens of figure skating fans who could not come to Sochi, although they wholeheartedly would have liked to be there. People from around the world, who travel to competitions in support of skaters, often trying not to miss a single event, were left behind this time because of the high ticket prices and extremely complicated ticket purchasing procedure. I felt ashamed that my foreign friends needed to watch the figure skating competitions on television, while a huge amount of seats remained empty at the rink. In order to somehow fill the stands, the organizers handed tickets out for free to hockey fans, volunteers and people just walking by. What a pity! But that’s what the main negative moments was for me. The sparse audience has already been mentioned many times.

The Iceberg was filled with many people who watch figure skating only once every 4 years during the Olympics; I have already explained the reason. Of course, this audience rooted for the Russians most loudly and more actively. But I must say that all of the skaters were well cheered for by the spectators. A very significant moment was when the audience supported Jeremy Abbott after his terrible fall in the short program. Jeremy still managed to get up and to finish skating, accompanied by the applause of the public that spontaneously rose in a standing ovation to encourage the gutsy athlete.

I am very happy that I witnessed true champion¬ís performances ¬Ė those of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, and silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov. The French team of Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres were pleasing, with their magical light and beautiful skating. I also admired the determination of Italian Stefania Berton, who left the rink in the arms of her partner Ondrej Hotarek after a painful fall during the team competition. But she later found the strength to perform two programs in the main event!

The next day, the main delight of my evening was the inspired short program of Brian Joubert, which he seemed to skate with one breath. It was a great gift to us, his fans. And finally, it was a successful Olympic experience for him, which was necessary for Brian to have a positive end to his entire career. He skated as only Brian is able to - with dedication, with drive, causing the audience to rise and applaud him while standing! Many thanks to him, the champion, the athlete and the man, for everything that he did for his sport and for all that he gave us, his fans. For all the emotions, all his ups and downs. Thanks to him from his fans for the discovery of new countries while traveling and getting to know many new wonderful friends, as well as for the finding of new talents in ourselves and overcoming all difficulties on a new path. For all this, thanks to Brian Joubert!

Brian¬ís retirement has an importance of such magnitude that, with it, a page of sports history is not simply turned, but the entire book closes. Brian Joubert, Tomáš Verner, Daisuke Takahashi... They were the last skaters of that golden generation and their retirement completes the whole figure skating epoch.

This is why the evening of the men’s free program made me so sad. Not only did no one show clean championship skating, but also it was the last competition program on the ice for many skaters. Tears in the eyes of fans, tears in the athletes' eyes... They gave their all to this sport. Let them be happy in their future life! Some want to continue skating in shows, some may become coaches. Let them do it! Generational change is a painful process, but it is inevitable. With what will the youth please us? We will soon see, just wait for next season. After all, champions come and go, and figure skating stays.

During our free time we just walked around the Olympic Park, enjoying the atmosphere of the sports festival. A wide cultural program was organized for the visitors. I think foreign guests at the Olympics were very curious to learn about the culture of the different people of Russia. Spectators could attend the concerts of Russian folklore ensembles, visit the Adyg's house (Caucasian nationalities, representing the native population of the Sochi region), representation of the Far North and Siberian people. Many artists performed for the visitors of the Olympic Park. And of course the warm and sunny (not at all wintery) weather contributed to the good mood!

It was also very interesting to visit the mountain cluster and finally see snow at these Winter Olympics. And we did it while walking through the village Rosa Khutor at an altitude of 575 meters above the sea. There were many modern hotels, shops and restaurant complexes built in this area, as well as a fan zone on the square with a huge screen and seats for spectators. The audience had the opportunity to have fun and pass an interesting time free of the competitions with costumed characters, taking a picture with Misha or Zaika, even with all three mascots of the Sochi Olympics at once!

I'd like to specially commend the work of the Olympic transport as one of my very positive impressions. Railway lines were built with cruising express trains that could convey thousands of passengers at the same time to the main Olympic facilities. And for those to whom it was more convenient, as for me and my friend, several routes of comfortable buses worked. Entrance was free for visitor pass holders. I'd like to say that we never had to wait more than 3 minutes for a bus, and never had to stand during the journey. Despite the huge crowds, leaving the stadiums after competitions was accomplished without queues or traffic jams. Many thanks to the organizers for a genius job of Olympic transport!

It turned out very Russian, paradoxically, to hold the Winter Olympic Games in the subtropics, among palm trees on the shore of the warm Black Sea. But it worked 100%, and being Russian, I am proud that my country managed to not just win the hosting of the Olympics, but also to ensure its excellent realization! I hope Sochi 2014 remains in the memories of all who have been there, as a festival of sport and joy.

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