Before I left for the Beijing Olympic Winter Games I wasn't sure sport would win over the negative narrative. With omicron surging, fears rising, and travel in/out of China becoming increasingly difficult, my belief in the Olympic movement was at an all-time low.
Thankfully, sport prevailed but it wasn't because of China's leadership, or because of hazmat suites and daily PCR testing. Sport won because of the athletes who strove for excellence and because of the volunteers who were at the ready to offer a helping hand when needed.
The People Of China
In China, my daily ritual involved sitting across from yet another faceless hazmat suite, preparing for my daily PCR test. Yet I was thankfully and regularly reminded to recognize the human within it. These volunteers found ways to welcome me every morning for my test, commenting (with broken English) on the nice pins I had, or how pretty I looked that day. Finding ways to greet me with a smile, even with the seemingly insurmountable fact that I couldn't see their faces.
Among many special locals we met throughout the Games, our hotel manager Duncan stood out (although he wouldn't tell us his Chinese name no matter how hard we tried). Using every tool he had available, he worked hard to ensure we left with memories beyond the hazmat suits and sterile rooms. He wanted us to remember China not only for the Games, but for its rich culture and traditions. Between a celebratory dragon dance where we could try it, a traditional first day of Spring meal, and a feast of the famed Peking duck - Duncan found ways to help us explore China beyond the confines of our hotel walls.
It was these experiences, among others, that allow me to feel hopeful for our collective future. Because the people of China have strength, they have a voice, and I hope their words will carry forward as their country evolves.
"3 athletes. Only 3 athletes go home happy," is what one athlete told me at the Games, and in many ways, they aren't wrong.
The Olympics are a unique experience because it's not building upon the previous Olympics and rarely is it building towards the next Games. With 4y between, more often than not, the Olympics are a stand-alone event. An event that, generally, only recognizes those who leave with hardware hanging around their necks. However, it was the people behind the successes and the failures that brought texture to the Games, they brought life to sport and they are why I cover sport with such passion.
Michelle Gisin told me, "Courage" was the part of her personality that she relied upon to successfully defend her Olympic gold medal.
That word resonated because it's what I witnessed, day-in and day-out at the Beijing Games. With my boots on the very cold snow, as temperatures regularly dipped below -20°C, I witnessed the World's Best go to battle in hopes of taking home hardware. But, like always, it's the moments between that caught my attention.
One such moment involved tears: not for a win, not for a loss, but for the opportunity to compete.
In the finish area, after the World's Best Downhiller, Italy's Sofia Goggia, completed her first Downhill training run, she broke down. Later she told me, "There was no guarantee I'd be here." That's because 3 weeks earlier she crashed, big time, and suffered a small fracture in her fibula and strained knee ligaments. But with effort, hard work, and a bit of luck, she was able to compete in her best event - the Downhill. In the end, she nearly defended her Olympic Gold from Korea and left with a radiant smile and a silver medal.
Canada's Jack Crawford made history winning his Nation's first-ever Olympic medal in Alpine Combined - an event that's been part of the Games since 1936. However, his teammate Trevor Philp didn't have the day he'd hoped for. When I said to Philp, 'Sorry about your day.' He stopped to correct me, "No, no. Today was a GREAT day." He recognized that seeing a teammate make history made it a great day for everyone. Because, although Alpine is an individual sport, it's the collective that builds success.
Now that the Games have wrapped and the Paralympics hold centre stage, I thought I'd share a few of my images that stood out among my collection from Beijing.
Thank you to SONY for their support and continued belief in my work.