There are two things Russians never want to be without: banyas and tea. While covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, my colleague Dipti Kapadia did an excellent video on the Russian banya culture while I journeyed up to the mountains to explore the joys of tea.
Her name is Siobhan Heekin-Canedy and despite her Irish name, she comes from Beverly Hills, California and she is skating on the Ukrainian team. Confusing? Well, not to her. For Siobhan, it was a matter of finding a good dance partner.
“Most boys play hockey in the United States,” she said in an interview on Monday, “they don’t want to figure skate.”
Siobhan, who has duel citizenship, sees no difficulty in representing Ukraine instead of the United States. She says that when she was in search for a partner, her coach had a relationship with the Ukraine team and she started skating with Dmitri Zyzak. After he stopped skating, she says it just made sense to find a new Ukrainian partner and stay on that track.
She and her current partner, Dimiti Dun are competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
As for the political strife currently happing in Ukraine, both she and her partner towed the official line saying “the Olympics are about sport, not about politics. Its about all the counties coming together.”
She then added, “I feel strongly that we’re representing the Ukrainian country as a whole no matter what their opinion, or their politics, that we’re here to represent the whole country.”
“I think it’s actually particularly good timing in a lot of ways because this gives us a chance to represent our country in a peaceful environment, to get to know each other as athletes and to really build those bridges.”
Events are added and taken away with every Olympic Games. But there is something different about the newly added slopestyle at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Slopestyle was added as both a snowboard and ski competition this year and the Americans are clearly in the lead with two gold medals as of Feb 9. And with good reason. Slopestyle snowboarding was invented in the U.S. It is a lot like another American invention, jazz. There is more improvisation involved than in other downhill sports. That, of course, is in keeping with the U.S. attitude of risking everything and thinking out of the box.
This attitude was very apparent during the post-competition press conference when Sage Kotsenburg, the Gold Medal winner was answering questions. The 20 year old, born in Idaho, was handling questions in his own very casual style, much like his snowboarding. Even if he was not as eloquent as other athletes in other more traditional events, his love and passion for the sport and his admiration of his fellow competitors was apparent.
Sports like slope style also present a difficult problem in judging. How do you judge a sport so dependent on individual style, rather than degree of difficulty? It is a question that Olympic judges are still wrangling with even after the completion has started. It’s a question that is not likely to have an easy resolution. But it is good to know that the U.S. can shake up such a stoic organization as the International Olympic Committee.
I am finding a lot of interesting things in Russian and be posting my discoveries (hopefully as they happen) while I’m here! In addition to my ordinary duties such as providing live hits to WSJ.LIVE, I hope to do a little exploring on my own, including hitting a Russian Tea Plantation, and also having a bite and a drink at this place: