NJDT 2016-2017 Season Highlights
2016-2017 NJDT: A Look Back
FISU 2017 – Welcome to Kazakhstan by Carrington Pomeroy
Having been selected very early for the 2017 World University Games in Almaty, Kazakhstan, I had a lot of time to prepare. However, I still was not prepared for everything that Almaty had to offer.
After a “short” 22-hour trip through Toronto, Frankfurt and Astana, we arrived in Almaty at 3:30am local time. As most of the passengers on our flight were athletes, we walked into the arrivals’ area to cheering and dancing volunteers. When these volunteers proceeded to collect our bags for us and load them onto our Almaty 2017-logoed bus, I knew this was going to be quite the event.
In Canada, we really don’t make a big deal about this event, but in certain parts of Europe and Asia, this is essentially a mini-Olympics. We were staying in a full-on, brand new athlete’s village where everything from the bed sheets to plastic water bottles were covered with the Almaty 2017 logo. The village came complete with its own grocery store, a spa, two banks, a five-cuisine dining hall that had crepes every morning and, my personal favourite, a complementary espresso bar with two full time baristas. So that it doesn’t go to waste, the village will be turned into affordable housing for residents of Almaty within the next year.
This was all complemented by the volunteers, who were eager to help with anything and even more eager to take pictures with us. Everywhere we went, there were several very enthusiastic volunteers who were very good at English. They and the people of Almaty were very considerate and welcoming.
The bus ride from the airport to the athlete’s village took about an hour. This hour was spent doing everything I could to try to stay awake but also taking in the city of Almaty. It’s called the “city of a thousand colours” for good reason. I’m not sure how the people there sleep normally as every building seemed to have a lit up design on it and it was really, really bright. Arrival at the village was basically the same as the airport, everyone cheered as we came in and then we passed through a ton of security. Finally, when we got to our rooms, we were allowed to sleep – but only for the few hours until morning.
The next day, we headed up to the race site. I had heard this site was nice but this is one of the nicest venues I’ve ever been to. Cut out of the side of a mountain, the courses offered every kind of terrain and some amazing views. Team Canada had their own wax container with an adjoining athlete lounge about 5 minutes from the start line. The walk to the start line also involved walking 200m through a granite tunnel that popped you out into the middle of the stadium. The first time walking out of that tunnel to a big crowd in the grandstand was pretty surreal. The courses were made up of a sustained climb for about 2k, a Dirk’s Dive-like downhill, a Chute Charron and then a ton of fast switchbacks before a fast, straight downhill into the stadium. After finishing, a camera would zoom in on your face for a bit. You got to keep your bib and you would be ushered into an athlete lounge where your clothes and food were waiting for you. It was sweet.
The competition was ridiculous. Russia, Kazakhstan, Japan and France sent what were essentially their World Cup “B” teams. One of the French dudes got called up to go to Falun for a World Cup while we were there. So I wasn’t expecting much in terms of results but it was cool to see how fast those guys are. It was also interesting to see that they ski the same speed as I do in zone 1. I think that means I’m going too fast.
The races for me were a mixed bag. It started with a 10K classic where I blew up spectacularly after having the 31st fastest first lap, lost a lot of time looking around at my competition and ended up 57th out of 85 starters. This was where I expected to be at the outset so it was a solid start to the week. The next day, a 10K skate pursuit, was quite a bit better. My skis were quite good and was able to make my way up the results with the 43rd fastest time of the day, one place off my goal of top half. Unfortunately, I got sick after this event and was forced to skip both the sprint and team sprint. However, I was happy to see my friends Alexis and Andree-Anne ski into the top 20 on the sprint day. Next up for me was the team relay, something I hoped I would get to participate in all year. It’s always awesome to race for a team and this was no exception. I still wasn’t relay (haha) feeling 100% but was able to push hard for the team and even ended up passing the American team! Finally, the last race of the competition was a 30K mass start classic. I still wasn’t feeling great for this race but the Canadian wax team provided me with some amazing skis so I was able to cruise through the race without that much difficulty. I even ended up 42nd – mostly because of all the people who DNFed and DNSed – but they’re just pansies so I’m just gonna go ahead and say I met my goal of top half.
Outside of racing, there was a lot of eating and studying. With everyone else also in full time studies, they all also had to do work – this made it a lot easier for me to concentrate and actually get my work done. Though, my roommates and I did spend a lot of time playing basketball with bottle caps and trash bins.
On one of our off days, we got taken on a guided tour of some of Almaty’s attractions. This tour began with a trip up a mountain just on the outside of the city. This offered amazing views of the city, an adventure park, a zoo (!) and even more people wanting to take pictures with us. We were then taken to see various monuments built to remember Kazakhstan’s independence from the Soviet Union, as well as their role in the Second World War. This was followed by a visit to the oldest church in Kazakhstan which was an amazing place (and made completely out of wood!). Finally, we went to the most famous market in the country: The Green Market. Vendors come from all across the region to sell food and handmade goods here. The market is seemingly endless and very easy to get lost in. It also provided me with my first ever chance at actual bartering (as opposed to arguing about ski prices).
All in all, this trip had its ups and downs but it was an amazing experience. I had a ton of fun, learned a lot and gained a whole ton of experience. Visiting Almaty, the atmosphere during the opening ceremonies and representing Canada are just some of the things I’m not likely to forget.