5 things about Sochi I'll never forget
CBC's Doug Gelevan on witnessing women's hockey gold, Norwegian skiing royalty and the Games' end
"What did we just see?!?!"
Q radio host Jian Ghomeshi wondered that aloud as a group of us walked out the Bolshoy Ice Dome after the women's hockey final.
I opened my mouth, but couldn't put the game into words. "Ahhh…wow," was all I was able to muster.
And, as I travel home to rejoin my team at CBC Montreal, the question still hangs over me: "What did I just see?"
In an attempt to answer that question, here are my five highlights (in no particular order) from Sochi.
1. Women's Hockey Comeback
The women's hockey final was the greatest comeback in Canada's international hockey history.
I got to see it because it was the only night of the entire games I didn't have to cover an event. I wanted to go to the coast and see the Olympic flame and, luckily, I landed a ticket to the hockey game.
If there was one event to see, in retrospect, this was the one.
When the women won gold in overtime, we were buzzing with excitement.
I was still in shock as we left the arena. My body was tingling and my mind was racing. I've seen a fair amount of sporting events in my life, but nothing like that.
It wasn't possible. But it happened.
My eyes welled up as our anthem played and our flag was raised.
If you wrote a movie script using that game as the plot, it would probably be too perfect a story for even Disney to produce.
Oh and, just before the hockey game, I was at the women's curling final watching Jennifer Jones win gold for Canada.
What a night.
2. Norway's King and Queen of Sochi
If the Games were to appoint athletic royalty, Norway’s Marit Bjoergen would be Queen. She won three gold medals in cross-country.
And she did it despite the fact that a tragedy rocked their team a day before the games started. The brother of Bjoergen‘s team mate, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, died unexpectedly. He was the ex-boyfriend of another team member, Therese Johaug (who also won one Bronze and one Silver).
As for the King? That is certainly Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. He became the most decorated winter olympian in history when he won his 13th career medal (including 8th gold) in the mixed relay.
For me, it was career highlight to interview him after he set the record.
Canada didn't win a medal at venue where I was working. But Norway won so many that I thought I might actually being learning Norwegian through osmosis.
My only regret is that I couldn't convince anyone on team Norway to trade me their toque, which I thought was the best looking headwear of the games.
3. Finland's version of the Dufour-Lapointe family
When the team of Iivo Niskanen and Sami Jauhojaervi won the men's cross-country team sprint, it was the first gold for Finland in any winter event since 2002.
The Fins were in hysterics at the finish line when Jauhojaervi crossed. The women's team of KerttuNiskanen (Iivo's sister) and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen (who had just won silver) screamed in excitement and joined the celebration.
Kerttu and Iivo shared a hug and Jauhojaervi pumped his fist in the air with excitement.
Watching a brother and sister share Olympic glory was special. You don't have to be from Finland to feel all warm inside when you see that.
4. Broadcast border wars
The CBC Mountain broadcast centre isn't much larger than walk in closet. It's just enough space for a few sound booths and a machine to send our work out back to Canada.
On the wall hung two TVs – one tuned to CBC and the other set on Radio-Canada.
These were key when it came to watching hockey because, in our hotel rooms or local bars, it was all Russian TV all the time. And our phones/computers were geo-blocked. That meant we couldn’t stream all of the events live like everyone back home.
So the broadcast centre became the best place to watch Team Canada play. After long shifts on the mountain, we could tune in and hear the familiar call of Jim Hughson and cheer on our team.
But for the semi-final against the US, the space wasn't going to do. We needed an upgrade. However, simply putting a TV in the hallway presented a problem: NBC was our neighbour. They wanted to watch the game too.
Some creativity is all it took and... voila! We had a viewing area for the game.
Complete with a “border” separating us from the American broadcasters across the hall.
We watched the semi-final in a way that could only happen at the Olympics — America's broadcaster on one side, Canada's on the other.
5. The CBC/Radio-Canada Nordic Team
I was a rookie when it came to covering the Olympics but, thanks to the experienced people around me, I never felt I was in over my head.
I worked with a dream team made up of three Olympians (Pierre Harvey, Karin Larsen and Beckie Scott), a former national team coach (Jack Sasseville), a producer doing her 14th games (Amy Smolens) and perhaps one of the most credible journalistic voices in country, Alain Gravel.
What a team. What an experience. What a privilege to have been a part of bringing the Games to Canada.
So what did we just see?
I hope this notebook gave you a window into my answer to that question.
Thank you to everyone of you who followed along.