Behind the scenes with… Nathaniel Mah (CAN)
In this new episode of "Behind the scenes with…", fis-ski.com checked in with an athlete for a change but an athlete who has many behind-the-scenes-impressions to share from the Olympics in Sochi just now: Canadian Nathaniel Mah was on location as a pre-jumper and forerunner in the RusSki Gorki ski jumping venue.
How did it come to be that you got the chance to be in Sochi as a prejumper / forerunner?
Mah: The opportunity was presented by an old childhood coach that was the RusSki Gorki venue Manager. He was a huge part of my childhood and coached me from age 6 to 10. He was able to pull some strings to get some athletes from Canada who weren’t competing to come over and forerun.
What did a typical day at the RusSki Gorki venue look like for you?
Mah: There were two kind of days that I had during my time in Sochi. First off, let me tell you that though forerunning the Olympics sounds like a pretty easy job compared to competing, it’s not as easy as most would expect. First we wake up at 7am, following that is packing a bag for the day, a very quick breakfast, and then it’s off to the bus stop. Once making the bus ride from the volunteer village to the train station we are greeted to a very thorough full body pat down in security. Next is the 9:30 train to the train station at the jumps, a nice gondola ride, hundreds of stairs, another chairlift ride and finally we find ourselves at the top of the jumps. The entire commute takes around an hour and a half, give or take.
After our daily public transit experience comes forerunning the Nordic Combined. Usually this goes from 12-3pm depending on how icy the outrun is… After the jumping we get some time on the cross country course. Now it is 5pm, most of the jumping events started around 8:30pm. Because we don’t really have enough time to go back to the volunteer compound the next 3 hours were spent watching other events in the athlete lounge, or finding areas to nap hoping no Russian volunteers come in and wake you up. The day ends with forerunning the Ski Jumping events, which usually run to 11:30pm.
Next is the hour and a half commute, then its straight to bed. These days were the tough days, usually we would only get 4-6 hours of sleep a night, but it was 100% worth it to be able to jump alongside the best athletes in the world.
The second kind of day was much more relaxing, these were the days we had off. Usually it looked like waking up at 11, enjoying a nice long brunch, then heading to the Canada house to watch events and spending time with friends. These were the days that made up for the lack of sleep and constant business.
What do you think about the level of organisation the Russian hosts provided?
Mah: I’m sure the Organisation in Russia was perfectly fine…if you speak Russian. Often I found myself trying to use sign language, or drawing diagrams on paper to try and figure out what I was supposed to be doing. But overall I thought the organisation was fine. Nothing was too impossible to figure out, and besides the occasional Russian security personnel yelling at us for something that we had no idea we did, the Games still went smoothly, and that’s all we can really ask for.
Was it difficult to watch especially the Nordic Combined competitions "from the outside"?
Mah: I was very happy to see friends and other competitors my age competing, but it was extremely difficult watching the Games, and not competing them. On top of that was the fact that there was no one representing Canada in Nordic Combined at all. Of course there is no one to blame except for ourselves, this year all 4 Nordic Combined athletes in Canada had the chance to qualify, and unfortunately none of us were able to. Though it was not all bad, from this experience I received a huge amount of new motivation looking towards the next Olympics. It has been a dream of mine since I was 5 to be able to represent Canada in the Olympics. This new motivation is only going to fuel the flame that keeps me training hard and fighting to get to 2018.
Did you have the chance to see any other competitions? What did you check out?
Mah: We did not have too much free time while in Sochi. But luckily we did get the chance to see some other events live. We saw long track speed skating, and a bunch of Canada hockey games. Besides the Nordic Combined or Ski Jumping events I have to say the highlight of the events I saw live was the Canada-USA gold medal Hockey Game. I think it was the most dramatic hockey games I have ever seen, which is really saying something because I’m from Canada, and honestly it seems as if there’s a hockey game every day here.
What is you bottom-line after two weeks of Sochi?
Mah: The bottom line is that somehow, a place with no snow that was built in 2 years was able to host the Olympic Games. In my opinion, all things considered I think they did a great job! The venues were all amazing, the volunteers were exceptionally kind, and I didn’t mind being able to ski on snow, and sun tan at the same time. The two weeks spent in Sochi were amazing and I am so grateful I got to be there first hand to experience the magic that is the Winter Olympic Games! It is something that I will hold on to for the rest of my life!
What are your next goals in regards to your own career in Nordic Combined now (for the rest of the season)?
Mah: The rest of the season is still up in discussion. Team Canada would like to be able to attend the fourth quarter of Continental cups in Finland as well as Sweden. But at this time we are unsure if we have the budget to be able to go. After that is just Canadian Nationals in Whistler BC. By the way for anyone reading this Canadian Nationals is an open competition, any nation is allowed to compete and train in Whistler during the two weeks in April. My goal for that competition is to be able to come away with the National Title. Though it will be a difficult competition with both Jean Charl and Wes, and the American skiers that come to compete.