Flipping over Sochi 

A Montana-centric guide to the Winter Olympics

Breaking rad

Whitefish phenom Maggie Voisin talks about growing up on the world's biggest stage

Last month, Whitefish's Maggie Voisin became not only the youngest athlete named to the 2014 U.S. Olympic team, but the youngest competitor the U.S. has sent to the Winter Games in more than four decades. Voisin began generating buzz in the freestyle skiing scene two years ago, and was named Slopestyle Rookie of the Year by ESPN in 2013. The Indy caught up with her a few days after her Jan. 25 silver medal run at the X Games in Aspen, Colo.

Indy: First off, congrats on the silver at the X Games.

Maggie Voisin: Ha, thank you. It's really exciting, yeah.

click to enlarge news_news1-01.jpg

The switch 101 was nuts. What was going through your mind when you were coming up on the jump?

MV: That's a pretty new trick for me, actually. I learned it the third day of training at X Games. I learned switch 9s2 last year, and they had been a pretty easy trick for me. So in my head, when I'm going off, I think just a little more set than a switch 9. For us, it's only one more 180. That's how I think about it. As you come off that lip, you just have to commit, from beginning to end.

How much practice went into it to get it down?

MV: Not much. It's kinda funny. I was just sitting on the knuckle of that second jump one day, which is the jump that I did it on, and I was thinking, "Wow, I have the switch 9, and I think switch 10 would be easy." It's a trick I always wanted to do. I talked to my coach and said, "I want to do this in Sochi, I think this would be a great place to warm it up." I did my first one that day and stomped it.

When did you set your sights on freestyle?

MV: I grew up with brothers. I was a tomboy, but I also was a figure skater, which is why I think I'm such a good spinner ...My brothers convinced me to join freestyle and that first year when I think I was 10 I learned my first 7203. I think why I progressed so much was because I reflected myself on my brothers. I didn't want them to be better than me. It was always kind of a battle.

Did you have any freestyle heroes in the early years that pushed you to progress fast?

MV: Yeah. When I was 11 years old, I went to Windells Summer Camp and got to ski with Ashley Battersby and Dania Assaly. That's when I was like, "These girls are so rad. I want to be just like them." Then, this past year, Tiril [Sjastad Christiansen, a rookie,] won X Games; she's been my new inspiration. She just jumped into the industry super strong and crushed it and I was like, "Dang, that's how I want to jump into the industry."

What's the attention like now when you go home? Do you feel like the resident star up at Whitefish?

MV: Definitely a little bit. I haven't been home for a while, not since I was named to the team or went to the X Games. I came back for Christmas break and that's when I did good at the [Mountain] Dew Tour and the Copper [Mountain] Grand Prix. I definitely started to get a little bit of attention, but I think coming home after the Olympics is going to be different.

click to enlarge Whitefish’s Maggie Voisin, the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team at 15, catches air during the 2013 FIS Slopestyle Skiing World Cup Qualifiers in Cadrona, New Zealand. - PHOTO COURTESY OLIVER KRAUS
  • photo courtesy Oliver Kraus
  • Whitefish’s Maggie Voisin, the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team at 15, catches air during the 2013 FIS Slopestyle Skiing World Cup Qualifiers in Cadrona, New Zealand.

What was it like hearing you were going to Sochi?

MV: I had to wait a day knowing that maybe I would get the third or fourth discretion slot. Monday was the day that I knew I was going to get the spot, and I had to wait all Sunday. That was a really long day. It was tough. I had to keep myself positive and tell myself, "It's not over yet. You still have a chance." On Monday, I was actually driving to Aspen with my coach and he was like, "I have to pull over. I have a conference [call]." I was like, oh no, I know what this is about. So I just put in my music as loud as possible. I didn't want to hear anything. I look over at him and he gives me the thumbs up. You can't explain how exciting it is, and especially for me at such a young age, it's such an honor, especially to be representing the U.S.

Do you remember what song was playing when he gave you the thumbs up?

MV: No, not really. As much as I was trying to just listen to the music, I was like, "Oh no, oh no. What's going on at that conference?" It was awesome.

What's it like being the youngest on the team? Who do you hang out with?

MV: I've always kind of grown up with the older girls, so I have older friends and sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm 15. But my roommate Julia Krass, she's actually going for the slopestyle as well and she's 16. I've known her for a really long time, so it's going to be super fun having a great friend to be able to go with and both experience it together for the first time.

It has to be a pretty grownup world, medaling at the X Games and going to the Olympics. Do you get to do any 15-year-old stuff?

MV: Oh yeah. My coaches and my parents, they all know that I'm still 15 and they don't want to take that life away from me. But for me, I'm really enjoying what I'm doing. When I go home is mostly when I get to remember that I'm still so young, just hang out with my friends and have that life too. My other life, my skiing life, I wouldn't ask for anything else. I love it.

This will be the first-ever slopestyle4 for the Olympics. What does it feel like to be part of that?

MV: It's crazy. I know I'm going to look back on this year and the Olympics ... and be like, wow, I made history there. And maybe be one of the first ones to podium. I'm so excited to show the world what our sport's about, because not many people know about it. What we do, it's amazing and it's fun.

click to enlarge Voisin competes in the slopestyle finals of the 2014 Visa Freeskiing Grand Prix. - PHOTO COURTESY SARAH BRUNSON
  • photo courtesy Sarah Brunson
  • Voisin competes in the slopestyle finals of the 2014 Visa Freeskiing Grand Prix.

Are you thinking much about what you'll do at Sochi?

MV: I definitely have an idea. I saw the course, but I haven't had a chance to really look at the rails and I definitely won't know until I get there. I know that there are three jumps, so I kind of have an idea what I want to do on the jumps. But I'm keeping it pretty open until I get there, because you never know what you want to do until you hit the course and feel the flow to it.

Do you have any favorite runs or memories from Whitefish?

MV: My parents show me pictures from when I was skiing on the bunny hill, and I always remember when I first started skiing alone. But one of my favorite memories is probably when I did freestyle and did my first 720. I was with my brother and his best friend. We have an old aerial hill, which is usually where I learned all my tricks, and I remember being like, "I'm going to do a 720." The boys are like, "No, no you're not," because they'd never done one either. But they all tried the 720 because I wanted to do it.

Did you stomp it first?

MV: No, sadly not. But I was the first one to attempt it, so I give myself credit for that.

After Sochi, is there anything you're looking at as a longterm goal?

MV: I feel like I'm at the tippy-top right now, but I don't know. There's a lot more I want to do. For me, just because the Olympics is the top and X Games is the top, I definitely just want to keep personally progressing the sport of women's freeskiing. I think that's really important for me.

1 "switch 10" or "switch 1080" is a 1,080-degree spin—or three complete rotations—where the skier starts and lands backwards.

2 "switch 9" or "switch 900" is a 900-degree rotation where the skier goes off the jump backwards but lands forwards.

3 720 is a 720-degree rotation.

4 Slopestyle is an event that combines various terrain park features, usually beginning with a series of rails and ending with a series of large jumps.

by Alex Sakariassen

Faster, higher, stronger—and smarter

14 facts about the 2014 Winter Olympics to impress your friends

1. Andrija Vukovic, a 19-year-old member of the Serbian Alpine Ski Team, is a freshman at Rocky Mountain College in Billings.

2. The Sochi Winter Olympics cost Russia an estimated $51 billion, more than $40 billion over budget. It's not only the most expensive Olympics ever, but you could pay for every other Winter Olympics combined—and probably have enough left to help the city of Missoula buy Mountain Water Co.

3. The 2014 Winter Olympics will feature eight new sports: ski slopestyle, ski halfpipe, snowboard slopestyle, snowboard parallel special slalom, women's ski jumping, biathlon mixed relay, luge team relay and a figure skating team event.

4. Gary and Angelica di Silvestri, married cross country skiers representing the small Caribbean island nation of Dominica, trained in Big Sky this winter prior to flying to Sochi. The couple is funding their own expenses for the Winter Games, where Angelica will compete in the 10km women's cross-country race and Gary the 15km men's event. They are Dominica's first-ever winter Olympians.

5. Seven gold medals handed out on Feb. 15, including the women's super-G, will contain fragments of the giant meteor that struck Russia a year ago on the same date.

6. Whitefish's Maggie Voisin is the youngest U.S. Winter Olympian since 1972. That year, two 14-year-old speed skaters, Kay Lunda and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, competed in Japan. Lunda placed seventh in the 500m, while Carpenter-Phinney finished seventh in the 1500m. Carpenter-Phinney, however, went on to win gold in cycling at the 1984 Summer Olympics.

click to enlarge Bozeman’s Heather McPhie, who will compete for the second time in Olympic moguls, performs a “back layout” in Zermatt, Switzerland, in 2013. - PHOTO COURTESY GARTH HAGER
  • photo courtesy Garth Hager
  • Bozeman’s Heather McPhie, who will compete for the second time in Olympic moguls, performs a “back layout” in Zermatt, Switzerland, in 2013.

7. Butte native and freestyle skier Bryon Wilson earned a bronze medal in the men's moguls competition at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Though Bryon didn't qualify for this year's games, his younger brother, Brad, will compete. (Read our interview with Brad on page 16.)

8. Looking to protest Russia's deplorable human rights record? In Sochi, protesters are confined to a designated park south of the city in Khosta, and must have a Russian government permit to legally hold a demonstration.

9. Montana State University offers a "microcourse" led by research-level faculty that uses the Winter Olympics to teach students about sports nutrition, biomechanics and psychology.

10. Bozeman's Heather McPhie competes in her second Olympics in women's moguls, but her teammate, Hannah Kearney, is favored to win. Kearney took the gold in Vancouver in 2010.

11. NBC has scheduled more than 1,539 hours worth of coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics across six different platforms. (Check out our viewing guide on page 18 for highlights.)

12. A group of Gallatin Valley residents launched Big Sky Committee for Games in an effort to bring the 2026 Winter Olympics to Bozeman. We're not holding our breath. The group's website, bozeman2026.com, refers to Big Sky Resort as "Big Ski Resort."

13. All three Montana Olympians are competing in freestyle skiing events, which the U.S. has traditionally dominated. The U.S. has won more medals—14—than any other country and sent at least two members to the podium in all but one Olympics since 1992.

14. The U.S. freestyle ski team will wear uniforms designed by The North Face, featuring a piece of a Himalayan suit worn on a Mount Everest expedition.

by Independent staff

Finishing Strong

Butte's Bradley Wilson arrives in Sochi after one wild ride

Bradley Wilson could hardly contain his excitement after placing third in men's moguls at the Lake Placid qualifying event in mid-January. The Butte native—and younger brother of 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Bryon—thought the podium finish had secured his spot in Sochi, and so he celebrated the completion of a lifelong dream.

There was only one problem: He hadn't actually made the team yet.

Without knowing his spot in Sochi was still in question, Wilson notched a second straight podium finish less than a week later to officially punch his ticket to the Winter Olympics.

Wilson's dramatic qualifying run follows an impressive ascent for the 22-year-old. He ended the 2011-2012 season with a gold medal at the Junior World Championships and Rookie of the Year honors in men's moguls. He followed that in 2012-2013 with four World Cup podium finishes and his first career win in Japan. Now, he's off to Sochi with teammate Patrick Deneen.

We caught up with Wilson—and Deneen, sort of—on the day before they left for Russia.

click to enlarge Bradley Wilson, shown here at the 2013 Visa Freestyle International, will try to follow in his brother Bryon’s tracks in Sochi. Bryon won a bronze in men’s moguls in 2010. - PHOTO COURTESY ERIC SHRAMM
  • photo courtesy Eric Shramm
  • Bradley Wilson, shown here at the 2013 Visa Freestyle International, will try to follow in his brother Bryon’s tracks in Sochi. Bryon won a bronze in men’s moguls in 2010.

Indy: I know you're busy. Am I catching you at a good time?

Bradley Wilson: Yeah, we just drove into Denver from Steamboat, where we had a pre-Olympic training camp. We're just staying at an airport hotel for the night and we leave in the morning for Munich, then we're off to Sochi. I was just talking with Pat about how excited we are to get there.

Patrick Deneen?

BW: Yeah, he's driving.

Patrick Deneen: [Inaudible. Sounds like he may be singing to the radio.]

Right on. So, be honest: When did you realize you'd made the Olympic team?

BW: I actually thought I made the team in Lake Placid. I thought the third place was good enough, so I skied with no pressure [during the last qualifier] at Val St. Come. But that podium I got at Val St. Come? That turned out to be pretty important. Without that second podium, it would have been up to the coach's discretion and I maybe wouldn't go. That second podium meant I automatically qualified.

Didn't anyone let you know?

BW: No, and I'm pretty oblivious to that stuff. I just try to go with the flow and ski. I wanted to place well, obviously, but I had no idea it was that important. I figure if I'm good enough to go, I go. If I'm not ready, I'm not ready.

  • photo courtesy Harald Marbler

Has it been a whirlwind since you secured a spot?

BW: When I got the second podium, there were only three of us that had secured a spot—me, Pat and Hanna [Kearney]—with the two podiums. It was a whirlwind as far as really hoping my brother qualified [through one of the coach's discretion spots]. We were staying up late, trying to figure out if they were going to let him in. Unfortunately, they didn't. It was kinda weird because I expected him to go. When I heard that he didn't, I don't know ... I was so excited that I qualified but also so disappointed that they didn't choose him to go.

That must be tough to balance the mixed emotions.

BW: We've talked about it. He's so excited for me. He was so good about it and supportive, which makes it easier. It's not like he held me back from being excited.

What advice has Bryon offered?

BW: He told me to ski the moment, be in the moment, enjoy the moment. I mean, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Qualifying is the hard part. Now, I just need to go have fun and ski.

How would you describe your mindset heading to Sochi?

BW: This past week at Steamboat we were able to work on the little things we haven't had a chance to work on. When you start the year, there's just competition after competition and there's not much time to train. Steamboat gave us the chance to get some of those things dialed in. I got what I wanted to get done, done, and I'm at a level now where I feel I can just go to Sochi and skimy run.

You sound pretty carefree, no pressure.

BW: Exactly. That's kinda where I want to be. There really isn't pressure now. I'm an Olympian now—how cool is that? It's like I said earlier—the hard part is over. The qualification process is so hard because there are only two spots and our whole team, my friends, are competing for these two spots, and everyone was skiing well. It's not like it was easy.

For those watching at home when you compete, what should we look for from you? In other words, what's going to be the key for you to end up with a medal like your brother?

BW: I'm going to need a fast time because my DD [degree of difficulty] is a lot lower than some of the other competitors. I'm hoping to make up those points with my speed. I'm going to throw my best DD on top—a double full1, which will be one of the highest tricks you'll see. But, overall, if you see me with a smile that means I did well.

Have you seen the Ralph Lauren sweater that you have to wear at the opening ceremonies?

BW: Oh God. I have. Are you just imagining me in it right now?

click to enlarge Wilson needed two podium finishes in the last two qualifying events to punch his ticket to Sochi. Here, he launches off a jump during the 2013 Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships. - PHOTO COURTESY JEN DESMOND
  • photo courtesy Jen Desmond
  • Wilson needed two podium finishes in the last two qualifying events to punch his ticket to Sochi. Here, he launches off a jump during the 2013 Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships.

Let me put it this way: It doesn't seem like the sort of thing you could wear around Butte.

BW: You will definitely not see me wearing that around Butte, I can tell you that. It is pretty cool, though. It's such a signature outfit. You earned it. It may not be quite my style, but I'm definitely glad to have it.

There have been reports of political issues and safety concerns with Sochi. Do you think about those things at all? Do you have any friends or family traveling to the games?

BW: My parents are going. I'm not worried about myself, but I definitely have thoughts for them. I want to make sure they have everything they need and that they're okay. I think the security will be really solid and hopefully everything goes smoothly.

And is your brother going?

BW: No, he's going to stay here in the States and keep training.

[Loud noise in the car]

BW: Oh, what the?

BW to PD: You good? I think you're good.

You okay? You parking the car or something?

PD: That was scary.

BW: No, we just drove over some spikes or something. Hopefully they were pointed the right way.

That might be the only thing that slows you down on the way to Sochi.

BW: [Laughs] Right? No, we're fine. This isn't going to stop us. We're good to go.

1 The "double full" is a backflip with two 360-degree spins.

by Skylar Browning

More than a game

Sports and politics will collide in Sochi, and that's a good thing

Last week I ate lunch with my friend, a fellow sports fan, who I'll call George. The Olympics came up in our conversation, and we began prognosticating about Sochi. We didn't talk about athletes or events or medal-contending nations, but rather about what sort of atrocities might befall these winter games.

For months, media has been reporting on the threat of terrorism in Sochi, rumors that anti-Western cells have already infiltrated the city and the Russian government's we-got-it-under-control security policies. Last month, the United States announced its plan to station battleships in the Black Sea, should an immediate emergency response be required. And all of this on the heels of the Kremlin's recently implemented policies criminalizing "homosexual propaganda," essentially making it illegal, in Russia, to acknowledge that there are gay Russians.

At some point in the conversation, George put his sandwich down and shook his head and said, "I just wish we could keep politics out of it."

I don't mean to vilify George. His point of view has more to do with sports in general than the Olympics in particular, and he's not alone in owning this opinion. In the age of Twitter and the 15-minutes sports-dedicated news cycle, I've heard the "let's keep sports between the lines" argument pop up frequently. Just a few weeks ago, former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wrote a piece on Deadspin.com chronicling his experience as an employee of the NFL and as an advocate for marriage equality. He surmised that he lost his job because of the latter. Pundits like ESPN's Colin Cowherd responded in much the way I'd imagine George and so many others would: Kluwe was paid to play a game, not to stir controversy. He was a distraction and, if the Vikings front office fired him because of his advocacy, they were warranted in doing so.

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But then what's the point? If we neuter Kluwe's ability to speak out for the disenfranchised and allow him only to kick oblong leather balls into the air, then we're negating the power of sports.

And nowhere is this more true than at the Olympic Games. When the Hungarian water polo team beat the USSR 4-0 in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, it didn't matter that the Hungarians were advancing in the tournament or that they would go on to win gold. What mattered was that only two months before, in October, students in Budapest had incited a nationwide revolt against the Soviet puppet government in Hungary. The Soviets responded with air strikes and mass arrests. More than 2,000 Hungarians were killed and the revolution was squashed. When the Hungarian water polo team jumped into the pool with the Soviets that December, winning the match meant everything.

Sports aren't meaningful in a vacuum. Box scores and stat sheets aren't compelling if we ignore the fact that human beings are behind the numbers. This is why I watch the Olympics. It's why I'm happy the United States has included three openly gay athletes as part of its Sochi delegation. It's why I hope we kick Russia's ass on the slopes and across the ice. Sports are meaningful only as metaphor. Games only matter when you play for something.

by Jamie Rogers

Instant analysis

When it comes to the Winter Olympics, we're all experts

The last time the Winter Olympics hit, I found myself in a bar in Wisdom, watching the games on TV with some self-styled ski jumping "experts." What luck. It was bitterly cold outside but indoors we sat in reverent silence, hovering over our whiskeys as we watched one stoic European after another coast down the long, icy ramp and into the bright Canadian sky.

"His head is up way too high," one of the experts would say.

"Only 118 meters?" the other would exclaim as Janne or Jakub or whoever came sliding to a stop at the bottom of the hill. "Shoot, he won't even medal with that."

What an education I got that afternoon. First, I learned that ski jumping is all about aerodynamics and speed, and that a positive mental attitude doesn't hurt either. I also learned, courtesy of my new friends, that becoming an expert on ski jumping really is just as simple as watching it on TV for an hour or so every four years. Because who's to say you're wrong, especially in a place like Wisdom?

That's the beauty of the Winter Olympics: Almost no one has a clue what they're talking about, which makes it the perfect topic of conversation for people who like to pretend they know stuff. By the time the broadcast moved on to speed skating, I was doing it too.

"You call that drafting?" I'd scoff at some poor German as he rounded the track looking like a lost seal in his skintight black suit. "Shani Davis is going to eat your lunch, pal."

It felt good. It felt right. Maybe I hadn't even thought about speed skating since the last Olympic Games, but I was comforted by the knowledge that no one else had either. We could be ignorant together, and there's no camaraderie quite like that which exists between idiots feigning intelligence in a group setting.

The only trouble is that sometimes you run into a person who actually does know a thing or two about these sports. Man, is that ever annoying.

  • photo by Alex Sakariassen

Have you ever talked to an actual Dutch person about speed skating? Here's some advice: don't. At the last Winter Olympics they had a record-setting skater disqualified for switching lanes at the wrong time. It was nothing less than a national tragedy. News reports there showed people—we're talking full-grown adults—looking absolutely distraught in the streets. You'd have thought Heineken had gone bankrupt.

Or what about the Canadians and curling? As someone who's lived through the experience, I don't recommend getting stuck in Vancouver and trying to convince a Canadian locksmith to leave the warm glow of his TV on the day of the World Curling Championships. It's like asking a Brazilian to give you a ride to the airport during the World Cup finals.

That's why I prefer how we do it in the United States, where we have no particular area of expertise or interest when it comes to the Winter Olympics. Most of us are only even aware of these sports in brief stretches to begin with. During that time we can be armchair experts together, theorizing about luge conditions and regurgitating figure skating sound bites as if we actually know what any of it means.

We don't have to understand it to enjoy it. We just need to get a safe distance away from those who do understand it, since they've been waiting four years to drone on endlessly about this stuff. Trust me, you don't want to get caught in the middle of that. You might accidentally learn something.

by Ben Fowlkes

A mile in his boots

It's not the thrill of victory, but the glory of participation that elevates obscure Olympic sports

You know you've gotten yourself into a bad situation when you're breathing so hard that you can't aim your gun. And yet there I was, sprawled out in the January snow, rifle in hand, skis strapped to my feet. Each time my lungs struggled for air, the tiny metal target 50 yards in the distance bobbed in and out of my rifle's sight.

Miss. Hit. Miss. Miss. Miss.

I had done a lot of stupid things for free T-shirts in my past, I told myself as I struggled to put my wet gloves back onto my numb hands, but this was by far the stupidest. I was participating in the 2012 Seeley Lake Challenge Biathlon, a combination of cross-country skiing and target shooting. It had seemed like a good idea when I signed up weeks earlier from the comfort of my own home, probably while wearing fuzzy socks and sipping hot tea. It was a short course, geared toward beginners, with firearms experts on-site to help participants who didn't regularly shoot. It was the biathlon's equivalent of a "fun run," but at the moment I wasn't having much fun.

On your right, shouted one of my competitors as she zoomed by me in a blur of neon spandex. In another moment, she disappeared up a hill and into the trees. On your left! Another skier whipped past me as if the two of us were practicing wholly different forms of locomotion.

The first time I watched a biathlon was in 1998, during the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. I had joined my high school's cross-country ski team, admittedly for social reasons, and we had gathered at a captain's house to watch the men's 10km sprint event. The flurry of jokes about a sporting event that mixed shooting and skiing quieted down as we watched Ole Einar Bjørndalen glide through the course, stopping almost casually—pop-pop-pop-pop-pop—to hit each of his shooting targets. All of the Norwegian's movements looked utterly effortless as he cinched the gold in 27 minutes, 16 seconds, with zero shooting penalties.

click to enlarge Athletes take shots in the women's 6km Biathlon of the 2012 Youth Winter Olympic Games in Seefeld, Austria. - PHOTO COURTESY XU LIANG
  • photo courtesy Xu Liang
  • Athletes take shots in the women's 6km Biathlon of the 2012 Youth Winter Olympic Games in Seefeld, Austria.

I didn't know it at the time, but I was watching the undisputed best biathlete of all time, and one of the greatest winter Olympians ever. His form was powerful and perfect, and his economy of movement as he switched from skiing to shooting to skiing was a joy to watch. In that moment, the biathlon turned from a Winter Olympics punch line into a beautiful and awesome sport.

On your right!

On your left!

On your right!

As the Seeley Lake event wore on, I wasn't just being passed by the other skiers, I was being lapped. I may have been fondly remembering Bjørndalen's gold-medal sprint, but I certainly wasn't channeling it. He'd won 11 Olympic metals—the second most of any winter Olympian in history. His glory was the result of total dedication, decades of hard work and a complete devotion to his sport and craft. My current experience was the result of mistakenly thinking that a biathlon would be 33 percent easier than a triathlon. And that it would look cool to wear a biathlon T-shirt to the gym. In the distance, I could hear the muted sound of gloved clapping as the winners were already approaching the finish line.

I finally started to enjoy myself when it started raining—a calming pitter-patter echoing in my hat that took me away from my panic and back to my surroundings. At around the same time, the last of the other skiers had passed me, leaving me alone in the woods, just concentrating on skiing. The snow was wet but still good. I finally found my rhythm. The pressure was off. I was a ski-shooter!

By the time I made it to the finish line, there wasn't a crowd to greet me. Just my husband, with a paper baggie containing my free T-shirt and a beer he had just pulled from a snowdrift. It wasn't a gold medal, it wasn't the glory of winning, yet it was glorious.

When I watched Bjørndalen ski in 1998, I gained an appreciation for the biathlon as a sport. But as I caught my breath in Seeley Lake, I finally had a full appreciation for the biathlete himself. Like so many things we see during the Winter Olympics, it was exponentially harder than it looked on television. That didn't make it any less exhilarating.

Ole Einar Bjørndalen, now 40, says he will retire after competing in Sochi, his sixth Winter Olympics. He's not a favorite to place in the 10km sprint, but he's told reporters that he's not in it to win this time. "I think it's fun to take part," he told the Norwegian press. He's absolutely right. I bet he's also still very fun to watch.

by Sarah Aswell

Must-see TV

Your handy Olympic viewing guide

Thursday, Feb. 6

7:00 p.m.– Bozeman's Heather McPhie competes in the women's moguls qualification round starting at 7 a.m., but you'll have to watch it live online. NBC will cover the event during its three-hour (tape-delayed) prime-time segment, the only Olympics broadcast of the day.

Friday, Feb. 7

6:30 p.m. – Catch the Olympic Opening Ceremony on NBC. The torch will finally arrive in Sochi after an epic, perilous and slightly ridiculous trip around the world, during which it traveled underwater, into space and to the North Pole.

Saturday, Feb. 8

1:30 p.m. – The men's individual 10km biathlon kicks off on NBC. You don't like the biathlon? Just read Sarah Aswell's essay on page 19, and you may have a newfound appreciation for the sport and Norwegian legend Ole Einar Bjørndalen.

7:00 p.m. – The women's moguls finals could offer McPhie another shot at Olympic glory after a disappointing disqualification during the 2010 games. The event will be broadcast (tape-delayed) during prime-time on NBC, but you can catch it live online at 11 a.m.

Sunday, Feb. 9

5 p.m. – Men's downhill—alpine skiing, traditionally one of the Winter Games'highest rated events, kicks off this NBC prime-time segment.

Monday, Feb. 10

7:00 p.m. – Men's moguls, including both the qualifying rounds and the finals, take up a big chunk of NBC's (tape-delayed) prime-time broadcast. Butte native Bradley Wilson begins the qualifying round at 7 a.m., if you want to watch online.

Tuesday, Feb. 11

2:00 p.m. – Watch Maggie Voison, the 15-year-old wunderkind from Whitefish, take part in her first Olympic competition when NBC airs the women's slopestyle qualification round on tape delay. Want to catch Voisin live? Qualifying begins Monday at 11 p.m.

7:00 p.m. – The women's slopestyle finals happen live at 2 a.m., but will be part of NBC's (tape-delayed) prime-time schedule. If Voison makes the cut, Montana—and the nation—will be tuned in to watch the nation's youngest Olympian since 1972.

Thursday, Feb. 13

3:30 a.m. – Dominica cross-country skier Angelica di Silvestri, who trained in Big Sky prior to Sochi, competes in the women's 10km live on NBCSN. The following day her husband, Gary, takes part in the 15km at 3 a.m., also live on NBCSN.

Saturday, Feb 15.

5:00 a.m. – Wake up early and catch a Cold War throwback when the United States and Russia face off in men's hockey on NBCSN, live.

Thursday, Feb. 20

8:00 a.m. – The women's figure skating free skate is an audience favorite, and this year the USA's aptly named Gracie Gold is leading the charge to bring home top honors.

10 a.m. – The women's hockey gold medal game will be broadcast live on NBC. The USA is favored to win gold.

Friday, Feb. 21

3:00 p.m. – If you are a member of Missoula's illustrious curling club, you will need to turn your dial to CNBC to catch the men's curling gold medal final. FYI: CNBC carries almost all of the curling coverage this year.

Sunday, Feb. 23

4:30 a.m. – The men's hockey gold medal game airs live on NBC bright and early, so get up, grab some coffee and tune in. Or just watch the replay on NBC at 9:30 AM.

7:30 p.m. – After 18 days of intensity, sportsmanship and Bob Costas sitting next to a fireplace, it all comes to an end with the closing ceremony on NBC.

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