Another flashback to the Winter Olympics - Men's Slalom
Updated: Apr 8, 2018
I’m still trying to find the time to write about the remaining Olympic events that we attended, it’s surprising to me that they ended over a week ago. On Thursday, 22 February, we had tickets to the Men’s Slalom event, an even that started at 10 in the morning which meant we had to take a 7am train from Seoul Station out. That made for a very early wake up call and a groggy early morning walk in a pre-dawn Seoul.
The event had its hours changed due to the weather to be starting 15 minutes earlier, that didn’t affect our train tickets but when checking this out we notices that the event was slated to take 5 hours, we had originally book return tickets for 2pm thinking that would give us plenty of time. Now knowing the full length of the event we had to change our return tickets, the only seats available back to Seoul were on the 6pm train – which would have meant 2-3 hours of waiting around – but they could get us sets on the train at 4:30 that would take us to the Cheongnyangni station, about 20 minutes before getting into Seoul station and right on the subway line, so we booked those seats.
The train was becoming routine for us at this point, we headed down, got on and settled in for the ride. The event was at a different location then the other events, so when we got off at Jinbu station it was a 20 minute bus ride to a parking lot where you go through security and show your event tickets so that you can then get onto another bus that takes about 15 minutes to get you up to the ski area. Once there we positioned ourselves right up against the fencing at the end of the course, and it was about 20 minutes before they started racers down the course. The event had 108 racers that had qualified, and they run the racers down based on how well they had performed in the qualifications and previous world cup events, so the best of the best would be the first ones down the course.
It was great to watch, amazing in that what you don’t see on television is that amount of course work that is done between racers. After every run down the hill there is a small army of skiers that follow down smoothing out the course, brushing snow back over the ice on the corners, tightening the breakaway poles into the ground.
It seemed to be a tough setup, some of the early favorites missed a gate at the top of the course and a few fell at about the mid-section. There are TV breaks after the 15th and 30th skiers, and then after that they really speed up moving them through – they would start the next racer when the first one was just past half way through the course, so the later 70+ skiers took about the same amount of time as the first 30. Once done they take a break, almost all of the spectator’s head inside the warming center, and they reset the course for run two of the day.
For the first run only 52 of the 108 made it through the course, so it would be a much quicker second run to watch. The athlete order for this is reversed for the first 20 skiers, so the 20th fastest time would go first, followed by the 19th, 18th, and so on, after the first 20 it reverted to the remaining fastest time order, 21st, 22nd, and so on. The total time was cumulative, so as each of the first 20 went you were moving toward the faster skiers and every few runs somebody new would move into first place with a new fastest combined time. When we came out of the warming station to watch run two we took the time to climb up into the spectator standing area to the right of the course so that we were slightly above and looking down on the finish line.
It was a great view to watch them come down the course, and it did get pretty intense as the faster skiers starting coming up and people were cheering for their countries – we had a Swiss couple next to us that went crazy when the 2nd best first run skier failed to overtake the Swiss skier that was currently holding the second best time and had thus been guaranteed nothing less than a bronze medal. He ended up coming away with the silver since the final skier, who had been expected to take the gold, missed the fourth gate at the top of the course just seconds into his final run.
Then the same thing happens, they take a TV timeout, and then they run through the final skiers quickly to get the event finished. Then they bring out the little podiums and walk out the three winners so that they can get the photos of them getting their stuffed animal mascot to take home until they get their medals later at the daily medals ceremony. We watched that and then shuffled out and down the hill to take the buses back the station.
For the train ride back, I had the idea that since we could only get seats to a station two stops before Seoul station that would just stay on the train and stand for the final 20 minutes of the ride. It wouldn’t be as bad as if we had had to do standing room on the whole ride – we’d seen a lot of people that did this, especially on the late-night return rides – and we had also seen people from standing room only move into available seats when the trains emptied out at some of the middle stations. It seemed like a good idea and then when the train pretty much emptied out a at the station it looked like we would be able to stay sitting for the remainder of the ride. We’re talking and not paying a lot of attention, but after maybe 30 minutes we notice that the train is heading out into the country. Huh, that’s not right, but a quick check of the train schedule in the book show that the 4:30 from Jinbu doesn’t stop at Seoul but continues out to the Incheon Airport. It makes one stop before the airport, and luckily that stop is also at a connection to the subway system so we can get off and quickly be back on a train that it headed into the center of Seoul, but with head 40 minutes past where we were supposed to have gotten off and then another 30 minutes back in, it just extended an already long day. To make it more fun when we went to leave the subway near the hotel our cards gave an error and wouldn’t let us out – we thought that we had missed scanning them when we made a connection between two of the lines, but with the help of some locals we were able to find out that the cards didn’t have enough cash on them to account for the extra distance we had traveled in coming back from being almost out at the airport. Then we didn’t have the right change and another friendly Korean was able to hunt down someone who could break our 50,000 won note so that we could reload the cards and get out of the station.
It was a little after 8 that night when we were getting back, tired from a long day of standing and hungry since we hadn’t eaten anything since the Subway subs we had snuck into the skiing event at noon. We didn’t have the energy to deal with trying to decipher a menu and pointing to photos so we just stopped off at a local convenience store and bought some of their fresh noodle ramen from the cooler section for us to make in the hotel room and washed it down with a few beers while watching recaps of speed skating on the local Korean Olympic station.