Debrief with Grete Eliassen on the London Olympic Games
Last night, the world watched as the 2012 Summer Olympic Games drew to a close in London. While many watched the Games on TV, a few lucky pro skiers got to experience the Olympics first hand. We checked in with Grete Eliassen—one of those fortunate few—about her recent jaunt over the Atlantic.
Freeskier: How would you describe the Olympic experience?
Grete Eliassen: Brilliant!
FS: What was the main purpose of the trip and who else did you go with?
GE: The purpose of the trip was to experience the Olympic games. Newschool skiing is the new kid in town at the Olympics so Red Bull—one of my longtime sponsors—wanted me to check it out and get a feel for it. I went with Nick Goepper, and Bobby Brown came in the day I left.
FS: What did you think of London? Was it pretty crazy during the Games?
GE: London is great. It’s so easy to get around using the Tube and everywhere you look there is a piece of history, from Buckingham Palace to the house of Parliament and the London Bridge. And everyone in the city had the Olympic bug. Even when we were all squeezed in the Tube or walking into an event, people always stood in the line and waited patiently and were just stoked with their country’s flag.
FS: As a potential 2014 athlete, what was the Olympic experience like? What kind of access did you have?
GE: It’s just so crazy to realize how big the Olympics are. There is so much that goes into it, especially the host country. There are so many people who volunteer their time and money to support the biggest sporting event on Earth. I was able to go into the Olympic Village which I thought was the coolest experience. You need to use your passport and you have to be invited to go in. It’s like a mini-country made for the Olympics, but with the best athletes in the world.
FS: What were your favorite events?
GE: I went to two events. Men’s trampoline and men’s and women’s individual gymnastics. I loved both of them. It was actually quite different from skiing because you were not allowed to cheer during the routines. I love the sound of a crowd pumping you up while you are skiing, but at those events you had to be quiet.
FS: What were some highlights of the trip?
GE: When I was in the Olympic Village I met Brigetta Barrett—a high-jumper for the US. And in the athlete game area there was a recording studio and she had just recorded a song and she let me listen to it in the studio. It was just a super random moment that I thought was pretty special to experience.
FS: Did you get to meet many summer athletes?
GE: Yeah, I have actually met a lot of the female athletes before through the Women’s Sports Foundation so I just wanted to finally watch all of them in their sports. I ran into Mary Whipple who won a gold medal in rowing. And I loved cheering Allyson Felix (Track and Field), Lashinda Demus (Track and Field) Katie O’Donnell (Field Hockey) and all the women’s soccer girls. My favorite part of the Olympics is it showcases women’s sports so well.
l-r: Grete and Nick Goepper :: Exploring London :: Grete and gold medalist Mary Whipple
FS: Did the experience make you any more excited about the prospect of going in 2014?
GE: Oh yeah! Before I was thinking it will just be another event, but now I understand it’s much more than that. It’s about bringing everyone together and celebrating life.
FS: Did you get to try any of the sports? Throw a discus, perhaps? Swim in an Olympic pool?
GE: I did not get to try any sports, but I did meet a Lance Brooks who is a discus thrower at the Red Bull Safe House. That was as close to trying any sports as I got. Although, Nick and I did do a lot of walking.
FS: Are you bummed you didn’t get to stay for the closing ceremonies?
GE: Of course I am bummed. Like I said, London was brilliant!
About the author:
Shay Williams is the former Managing Editor of Freeskier Magazine. He now works full-time with Monster Energy, and continues to contribute to freeskier.com.