It seems like yesterday that the team was packing up to leave Switzerland and head to China, but at the same time, it feels like an lifetime ago! I am currently sitting in Chicago airport writing this and reflecting upon how much has happened since my last update- realizing that the past three weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. So I will do my best to begin from where I left off

Olympic announcements went out, and another great ausxc vid was launched- featuring Phil as aussie battler Shrek, and the rest of us basically just being ourselves. Scratch that- we were all just being ourselves.

https://www.facebook.com/ausxc/videos/715845682720413

After what we initially thought were an excessive amount of covid tests, we were cleared to head to Bejing.. little did we know that we would have swabs shoved down our throats every single day for the next 3 weeks straight (pro-tip, could be useful for future reference: if you start to gag and stagger backwards, they actually can only reach so far as to tickle your tongue from the booth they stand in). We were greeted in China by many individuals in hazmat suits and goggles, which we soon discovered was the standard attire for Beijing 2022 staff. As much as I appreciated their Covid- safe dress protocol, I didn’t love it enough to trade any of my personal team kit for it (tough decision I know), although I did trade a few boxing kangaroo pins for volunteer pins.

welcome to China! Wind and hazmat suits!

When we arrived at the village, we were faced with what we thought was some of the coldest temperatures and wind we would ever experience. Little did we know we would have to ski and race in much worse conditions than this. That was the last time any of us were underdressed for the cold temperatures in the village though; we made it to the Team Australia HQ and spent the next couple hours in absolute BLISS opening up our 2 suitcases full of team kit. Its like 10 childhood Christmases and birthdays all at once … we get SO much awesome gear. My personal favorite this olympics was the uggs with green and gold flair, which were quite possibly the most highly sought after item at the games for trades. Also a big fan of the team coffee travel cups, which were especially convenient considering we had an in-house espresso machine and full time barista making coffees for us the whole time. A actual dream come true, especially after 2 months of drinking “cafe intenso”- the Aldi special the team buys when we stay in Switzerland (yes, its intense, but no, that is not a good thing). The Aus HQ was decorated beautifully with green and gold flair and artwork everywhere.

yay!!!!

Casey and I with our Qantas tickets

Aus Building!

Uggs and Lattes!!!!!

Favorite decor

Very cool artwork in Aus HQ!

Additionally, we had our own nutritionist who was cooking meals for us (with help of MANY other amazing staff members). Other teams were extremely jealous of us, as we were the only team who figured out how to source food and do this while in China. Not only was this super covid-safe, but word on the street was that the food in the dining hall was slightly sub-par (to say the least). I’ll never really know, as the only thing I ever did in the dining hall was go on pin-trading missions and take sea-salt avacado ice cream to-go (which tasted sadly similar to vanilla). I was MORE than content with the gourmet meals being cooked for us at Aus HQ (lamb curry, risotto, yummy soups, you name it).. AND we had timtams, milo, and caramel koalas for desert. Again, dream come true.

Ok- so, enough about food- onto the racing! The skiathlon was the first race. It took a few days to get used to the brutally windy conditions, colossal climbs, and time change, but I was READY to rock for that race. It was so cold the day before the race that I had to do a test run during race-prep to see how many layers I could fit under my race suit and still move my arms and legs. I also got blown backwards while skiing out of the stadium , so that was fun (but great practice for days to come). I ended up 31st place in the skiathlon, which is a result I am really proud of. My goal had been to place 30 in that race, which I WAS doing prior to the last 100 meters, during which I was passed by 3 girls. I was pretty bummed about this, but also really happy with my performance overall. I had been in 42nd place after the classic leg, and skied the 19th fastest skate leg to move up 11 places. I skied significantly better than I had all season, and I dug as hard as I could trying to get that top-30. I ended up with the best individual result in XC skiing for Australia ever, which was pretty cool as well.

The next few races were stacked pretty close together with only a few days between. The skate sprint was relatively average for me. This was followed up by the individual start 10k classic, where I started in front of all three medalists that day. Downside: being passed by women who seemed to be skiing close to the speed of light; Upside: lots of TV time. I was hoping for a little more in that race, but again- a relatively average performance for myself. After these three races I earned a break for a few days, during which I spent a lot of time trading pins and watching other events on TV. I got to watch Australia win 4 medals- which is our country’s biggest ever medal haul at the winter Olympics! Also an incredible feat considering we only have 43 athletes total on the team!

The next race was the classic team sprint. Probably the coolest part of this race was having Casey as my teammate; she was my teammate for my FIRST ever team sprint back in 2015 at World Championships in Falun. Same race- except different technique… and we are now much older, wiser, and hopefully (definitely) faster. For those three things we were lucky, as this team sprint was definitely the toughest one I’ve ever done. All the courses in China were extremely tough due to all the massive climbs, but the sprint course was especially brutal. Each lap took us close to four minutes, which really adds up when you are going MAX effort back to back… to back. After one lap I was deep in the hurt zone. Typical to women’s racing, everyone went super hard from the start, so we were skiing in no-man’s land after the first lap. Luckily, we had an awesome cheer squad out there and its always easier to push when you have a teammate- we ended up in 8th in our semifinal and 16th overall, which was well above our rank. I am super proud of our efforts that day and couldn’t have asked for a better teammate!

Best face tape- keeps the wind off AND you can write on it!

The last race was the 30k skate, which was the last event of the entire games. This was my biggest focus- my favorite event and best opportunity for a top-30 result, in my opinion. The course was hilly and tough- just the way I like it. My nerves were absolutely through the roof leading into this event. The day before the race, I headed out for my normal morning jog (all the races are in the afternoon, so I ran every morning) and noticed it was a little more windy than usual. When I got to the venue to ski that afternoon, the wax cabins were literally shaking. Objects outside were flying around and hitting the building if they weren’t tied down. The race course looked like a snow globe because the wind was blowing up so much snow from the track. Casey and I sat there for close to 45 minutes before working up the courage to go out and ski in it; when we got out there, it was by FAR the worst conditions I have ever skied in. The men’s 50km was supposed to start in less than two hours, and I was genuinely concerned that their race would be cancelled, or that people wouldn’t be able to finish in such brutal conditions. The men’s race ended up being shortened to 30km and delayed an hour, during which the weather luckily improved quite a bit. It looked promising for our race the next day, but the race organizers also opted to move our race forward a few hours to take advantage of the window during which wind was predicted to be the lowest.

When we got out to the race the next morning, it actually seemed quite lovely. The sun was shining, and the wind didn’t seem too bad. I almost considered taking off one of my base layers under my race suit. Luckily, I made the last minute decision to not, because the weather transition during our race was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. By the end of 30km, I literally felt like Shackleton leading an Antarctic adventure. The wind was SO strong it would push skiers backwards and made it difficult to see in the stadium. The coke I spilled on myself during a feed froze to a stray piece of hair, which then turned into a flying icicle which repeatedly whipped me in the face like a dagger. Making it to the finish line that day was a feat, and I am proud of every athlete who did. Regardless of weather conditions, I personally struggled during that race, which was something I was pretty disappointed about. I had put so much pressure on myself to get the result I wanted, and felt like my body was fighting me the entire race. But that is the irony of sport- sometimes its when you least expect it that you perform, and when you most expect it that you don’t. I ended up in 43rd place, which wasn’t where I wanted to finish, but I am also really proud to have not lost more positions when I started to fade. That is something I really admire in other athletes and something I always strive for in my own performance- no matter of how terrible things are going both physically and mentally- maintaining the ability to keep pushing and fighting until the end. I have learned that the thing I care about the most in racing is feeling like I have given it my all- regardless of how that looks on the results. Even though I didn’t end up where I wanted to in that race, I gave it my best shot, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day. That, and having amazing teammates and support staff to greet you at the finish line with hugs, smiles, and if you’re lucky- Chinese beer and Natural Pantry Snakes. It doesn’t get much better than that

struggling through the wind

The aftermath of our sport

snakes and beer to recover!

SO GOOD having PK in Beijing teching, carrying my skis, offering me mental support, giving hugs at the finish line, sharing the stoke for lattes with me, and just being the great friend that he is!!! Best addition to the team ever!!

Pin trading and learning Chinese with Hugo. He is so tall that he can scope for all the small nations/ nations with cool pins in the dining hall. Then he is so polite and charming that everyone always trades with him. Pin trading wing man!!

Sadly, I missed the closing ceremonies because of travel (and the opening because of racing and epic travel to Beijing- but we did our own little village march in Zhangjaikau instead to compensate), but I am lucky to have been able to attend them in Pyeonchang. I departed the village 6 hours after the 30k and am currently still en route to my next destination: Minneapolis, MN. Yep, that’s right- I caught the Birkie fever big time 2 years ago and am headed back now! The travel has been brutally long, but luckily there were only 12 people (yes, dead serious- 12), on my flight out of Tokyo. I had ample rows to choose from on which to sprawl out and sleep. I was also served incredible Japanese food that I couldn’t identify- I had to message my brother’s Japanese girlfriend, Takako, to help me! I have seriously never had such good airplane food, or maybe I just need to make a trip to Japan

Mini opening ceremony in Zhanjaikau!

Yay for empty flights!

Anyway, overall, my Olympic experience was INCREDIBLE. I had an amazing time with the team and wouldn’t trade any of it- not even the brutal weather (mostly because its a great excuse to rock the team Trench). The XC team did awesome as a whole and had an amazing support staff to help us. I am looking forward to the Birkie (and after that, the Tour of Anchorage… then back to the clinic!) but will definitely miss my teammates and the olympic village life. I am lucky to have so many amazing experiences to look back upon in life, and my time at these Olympics definitely is up there on the list. Thanks to everyone who cheered for me from afar- all of the messages I received from friends and family while I was there were so encouraging and special. You are all awesome; thanks so much for supporting me on this journey!

whole crew!! what a team.

Skiing with the young guns on one of the best days (barely any wind and gorgeous out)!! These boys are the best! Skied so well at their Olympic debut- watch out for them at U23s this week!!

Pressy conference with Seve and Phil, self proclaimed monkey ballerina and skateboarding rhino on skis, respectively

That’s the great wall of China!

Crew watching other athletes on TV in the Aus building

Running in the village! So stoked to be at the olympics!

Olympic mascot and myself

Did a photoshoot in my formal wear with the rings- since we didn’t get a chance to wear ours at the games this year!

Rocking the trench:

Oh yeah, I lied, we also got KFC fries and sprite after the 30k from the dining hall. Fuel of campions!

Favorite member of my support team… see you soon!!

Peace out China!!

-JJ

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