It has been a busy month for me, as I have travelled to ski and compete in Estonia, Austria, Russia, back to Austria, then to Poland, and now Italy. Ironically, I haven’t seen much of what the countries have to offer to a tourist, as the days are spent training, testing skis, putting on the race bib and racing, and then recovering from all of the above (as in sleeping lots). I did, however, spent three days visiting my granny in my childhood town Pushchino in Russia a few of weeks ago, following the World Cup race in Moscow. Below is the story of my visit.
“Things that don’t usually happen on the World Cup”
The story of my visit to Russia
Back in the 90-ies, my family lived in a small town called Puschino,100km south of Moscow. My best memories from the first 15 years of my life can be divided into two broad categories: one of the times spent with my classmates and the second one of the summer vacations spent at my grandma’s cottage in Ukraine.
My parents, both microbiology scientists, were keen on enrolling me in the best public school possible, so I ended up attending Puschino’s Experimental School. I have no idea how many novel educational experiments our school tested out, but when I was 10, the three parallel grades were segregated into smart, average, and below average students. The idea was to teach us differently based on our intelligence. Group A consisted of the smart kids, and I was lucky enough to be part of it. Most of the kids’ parents, like mine, were some sort of bio-, geo-, and microbiology scientists, working at one of three research institutes in town, so we, the kids, were very aware of the importance of education and having been selected to this special group.
Our scientist parents (in particular my mom) were keen on making sure we were culturally educated, which meant taking many school trips to Moscow for a visit to a museum or a theatre. It sounds bizarre when I think about it now, but between the ages of 10 and 15 I have seen just as many or possibly more operas and ballets, than I had in the following decade of my life. For my classmates and I, these extracurricular activities bonded us for a lifetime. A typical, parent-organized school trip would consist of a 1.5hr bus ride to Moscow, followed by a 3-hour museum visit, followed by a night at a theatre. Maybe it was more the group’s excitement of being bussed to the big city that we were into, but somehow all of us really loved these cultural escapades to the Russia’s capital.
I am proud to say that after high-school, most of my classmates graduated from elite Russian universities and went on to build careers in Russia and elsewhere in the World. Even though we graduated high-school over 12 years ago, and I have been becoming more and more Canadian ever since, many follow my skiing adventures with great interest, watch ski racing and cheer me on. We also keep in touch via Facebook, email, and phone.
Which brings me back to the World Cup ski racing. Two weeks ago the World Cup came to Moscow for a city sprint and no one could not have been more excited to race there than me. Many of my classmates who still live and work in Moscow or Puschino came to cheer me on, and it was so cool to have my own mini cheering section all the way here, thousands of miles away from my Canadian home.
I did not have the race I was hoping for, but that’s the life of sport and I knew I will have to try my best again the next time I step to the start line. My granny came to cheer me on in Moscow race as well, and after the race I came with her to Puschino for a three day visit.
Did I mention that while visiting my granny in Puschino I attended my high-school reunion? Being there, I couldn’t help but think how much my classmates and I are connected and interact with each other. I feel a strong friendship bond with so many of my school friends, even if I live in Banff, someone else one lives in Geneva, third in Baltimore, Berlin, Vancouver, London, Moscow, etc.
Thanks to my school experiences and the connections I still share with my classmates, racing in Russia will always feel like like homecoming to me. I can barely wait until the 2014 Sochi Olympics!