Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bobsleigh Races in St. Moritz - take 2

I love being close enough to be a physical presence of support for Jazmine as she competes on the world cup circuit. One of the annual competitions is in St. Moritz. Since it's the only one on natural ice, it has to be scheduled when it is guaranteed cold enough to stay frozen. It wasn't as cold as 2013, but it was cold enough! (especially for the spectators - foot warmers are essential) Who can complain about an annual trip to St. Moritz? The three hour train ride goes through absolutely beautiful scenery. This time I managed to keep my camera tucked away. I've taken enough photos of my camera's reflection to know I should just enjoy and wait until I'm out of the train to take pictures. 

Skeleton and bobsled are part of the same international organization - their races occur on the same schedule. St Moritz is a bobsled and skeleton crazy town as evidenced by the bobsled decorations outside hotels, skeleton statue and of course, chocolate sleds. This is Switzerland afterall - big events must be commemorated in chocolate.

skeleton racer statue

chocolate and marzipan sled, but sadly, no women athletes
home of the only natural ice track

Jazmine's sled

competitors and time to beat

Jazmine and Katie (in white jackets) walk between coaches and athletes to get to the starting box

Jazmine and brakeman, Katie, at the starting box
Jazmine and Katie getting ready to push off

a good start is crucial
in the sled - now it's all up to the driver

sled follows the track along the banners

video is shown on the jumbotron

Jazmine talking with a coach
There weren't as many spectators as last year when this club hosted the World Championship. Unfortunately, they didn't set up the bleachers which provided an unobstructed view of the start. 

me with Jazmine's sled
 The sleds are trucked up to the start for the second run. Lolo Jones stands next to Jazmine's sled. Take note of the jacket on the New Zealand skeleton crew - that's a kiwi skeleton! Cute!

The track is swept between all racers. Jazmine's sled is at the start again being prepared for run #2. 
pushing hard again!
 We followed the walking trail beside the bobsled track - here are some views of the track along the way. It is a bit scary when the sleds whiz past.

men's sled in the horshoe curve

at the finish line - photo by Neis photography

Believe it or not, we did watch the other competitors. We just didn't pay as close attention. Here is another American sled. Can you imagine trying to jump into a sled that is moving away from you so fast? It's amazing they ever get in.

Jazmine introduced us to her good friend, Esme, who is the pilot of the Dutch sled. Here is a shot of Esme and her rookie brakeman, Melissa, who we also met. They invited Jazmine and us to have a sushi dinner with the Dutch team. It was a lot of fun.

There is a spot along the bobsled track where it goes under a railroad bridge. We heard a train coming, but I couldn't get my camera out in time. It did look just like this postcard - beautiful contrast of red against the white. 

"Monobob" may be a sled of the future. It was driven down the track before each race began. Not sure why, but it was fun to watch.

Jazmine was disappointed with her results, but we still had fun.  Each time we learn about the sport and get to know Jazmine better. Best of luck to you and team USA in Sochi! 

We thought it was especially nice of St. Moritz to leave up their holiday lights until after this event. Here are some views of what is a very beautiful small town. I'd recommend going there.

Swiss flags stand out against a blue or gray sky

Keeping the bubbly cold - yes, you could buy a glass from either of these outdoor ice bars.

view from our hotel
So long, St. Moritz. Maybe we'll see you next year!

(photo credit for sleds in motion goes to Tom)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hockey, Swiss Style

Being ice hockey fans for years, we decided it was about time we went to a local game. There is a Swiss professional league like the NHL, but since this is a small country, the travel is much less extensive. We went to see the Zurich Lions play the Kloten Flyers (and yes, the team names are in English). It was an away game for Zurich, but Kloten is where Zurich airport is - obviously not very far away. We made the right decision to take public transportation. Parking was definitely limited.

The arena was surprisingly small and was closer in size to the arena at Northeastern University than one used in the NHL. Concrete walls in the lobby area were definitely not on par with "The Rock" in Newark.

even the Zamboni was smaller
wooden floor!

very big steps - I felt like a kid trying to climb stairs

These stairs are really steep and have no hand rails. They are also very big steps. I felt like a toddler trying to climb stairs. Definitely wouldn't pass an American safety inspection. Our seats were in the front row because that's all that was available when we decided to go. There was no netting above the glass where we were so that was a little nerve-wracking. Also, there was no rail in front of us. We could just step off - and drop down four feet or so! No jumping up after a goal. It would have been too easy to fall off.

you know him - see the drop off right in front of his feet                              

Upon arrival, all seats had a piece of white cardboard with advertisements. We learned the intent was for them to be folded like an accordion (see under Tom). When you smack that on your hand or a chair, it makes a very loud sound. There were moments when I wished I'd brought ear plugs. The crowd cheered (and used their noisemakers) nearly the whole game. They only quieted down for a bit when Zurich scored the fourth consecutive goal after the home team had scored the first two. One section of fans had someone with a bull horn leading cheers. They didn't even stop when music came over the loudspeaker. Never lost a beat. It was much louder than the Rock during normal play. 

The uniforms are covered with advertising. Notice the golden arches on the calves!  Each team's high scorer wore a yellow helmet and jersey. No one could say they lost track of him!

team gathered together before game started

Zurich Insurance, Tom's employer, is a league sponsor

both high scorers on the ice

high scorers against each other was common

final score - we win!
handshake after the game - this only happens at the end of a playoff series in the NHL
Before the game and during the intermissions, there were refreshments available for sale in the lobby. They had the normal choices and more alcohol options.  We opted for gl├╝hwein since it was colder inside than we expected and we were chilly. I didn't feel comfortable taking a picture of the group standing around a small round table. Their glasses stood on the table: beer, prosecco (champagne), beer, prosecco, beer, prosecco! Champagne at a hockey game? That's a first for us. 

Another sight I couldn't photograph was how a large number of fans wore their team jerseys. They were tied around their waists hanging in the back like a skirt since they're so long! I have no idea why they wear them like that, but I thought it looked very funny.  

The whole experience was a lot of fun and we'll probably go again. Maybe to a Zurich home game when more of the cheering will be for them. The only negative was the smoke. No one can smoke inside, but as soon as we left the building, lots of cigarettes were lit. Since we were among the many walking to the train station, it was impossible to avoid.  

(side note - there is one Swiss player on the NJ Devils - he's new to the Devils this year)