Posts Tagged ‘Steph Hickey

21
Feb
10

SBX at Cypress

The first Monday of Vancouver 2010 was the beginning of a loooong four days (hence no more updates till now). After Sunday late-night drinks it was a 6am wakeup to try and get on the 7am Media bus from the MPC up to Cypress in order to get onto the actual SBX course. It was pitch dark when I woke…which made it all the harder to get out of bed, but it was a pretty spectacular sunrise across the water from Lionsgate Bridge.

 Annoyingly, the Cypress media/photo crew had been really restrictive about access to both the pipe and BX track, and about deadlines for access. But after jumping though a million hoops, I was finally strapped onto my board and riding down the side of the course. It felt so good to have the camera bag on the back and to be able to slide on snow again…although it had been only 6 days since I was last up at Northstar. It was great to see Chumpy destroy the course (well, the 2 or 3 turns i could see at a time) and hear about both his fastest time qualification runs. I was hoping to move from location to location between rounds in the afternoon finals, but the VANOC nazis were out in force. Fortuately, I was right near a CTV cameraman who let a few of us look over his shoulder at the live feed of all the action down the course. Without this, and not being able to hear the PA commentary so far away at the finish-line, I would have had no way of knowing who was progressing through each heat. It was a shame Chumpy and Damon couldn’t progress further, but they should both be proud of the gung-ho attacking nature of their riding.

VANOC had a huge ‘fail’ with the location of the Olympic Cauldron, which is nicely located on the water…but surrounded by an ugly, temporary-looking cyclone wire fence! Each morning there are thousands of tourists clogging the streets around the Main Press Centre (MPC) and International Broadcast Centre (IBC)  – right next to the Cauldron – who leave disappointed with the view and (lack-of) photo opportunity. It’s a shame they couldn’t get something so obvious right, amongst the other problems of the Games. I managed to check out the scene on the way to Womens SBX. It was rainy and cloudy down in Van, but much, much worse up the hill. But after a couple hours postponement and delay, the girls hit the track. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Steph Hickey with a bigger smile on her face than in the start gate for her first qualy run. I was feeling pretty beat by the time of the Womens finals, and stayed  in the warmth to watch the action on the media centre TVs. And with all the halfpipe practice scheduled for the evenings, with the early SBX starts and late partying nights I was pleased to discover that I wasn’t the only one tring to snatch some catch-up sleep wherever I could. After witnessing Lindsey Jacobellis’ brain fade on the second-last jump at Torino 2006, I was hoping she would find some redemption, but again a split-second escape cost her gold (and any medal this time). Boardercross is a pretty harsh sport.

I borrowed a brand-spanking-new Canon EOS 1D MkIV body to shoot some of the SBX, but for some reason my software won’t let me process the RAW files into jpegs. So here are just a few shots taken on my ‘back-up” 1D MkIIN (and pocket Sony Cybershot). I hope to get it sorted soon and put a greater variety of shots up…but checking out the local paper after the first day of snowboarding, clearly i’m doing it all wrong. Himbrechts has started doing agency/newspaper work so this must be what he’s aiming for: a ‘soft’ (due to super cropping) out-of-control “man-in-the-sky”. I must say, it was interesting to see how out of control the riders looked a lot of the time. But I guess with such a challenging, gnarly course and pushing for every bit of speed the aesthetics of your riding are furthest from your mind – the opposite of what we aim to achieve when shooting for one of the mags.

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15
Feb
10

Sunny Cypress

Today the sun finally started to shine and my spirits shone, not least because it was the first day there was snowboard training up at nearby Cypress Mountain. There were some nice views from the Media bus, but it was a pretty dismal lack-of-snow sight to behold once up top. I managed to catch the bus with both Himbrechts and Matt “Elephantitis” Shirvington – he is one tall, good looking man. And pretty friendly and good to chat to. James Brayshaw was also on the bus, but was too-cool-for-school in his sunnies and avoided every Aussie and hid at the back of the bus…or maybe he was just super hungover this morning. If he’s anything like the substance abusing rest of The Footy Show members, I would reckon on the latter.

There is fuck-all snow up at Cypress, and on the way we passed one of those Ericsson “Elvis” Air Cranes – in Australia they dump water on bushfires, in BC they pick up container-loads of snow to make a pipe, mogul course and BX track! And besides the lack of snow, the layout and organisation of Cypress is pretty poor. There are at least 6 stories of stairs everyone has to climb in order to get to the bottom of the pipe and track, and the organisers are super anal about lame rules: where you can and can’t stand, which way you have to walk, where the buses stop…and worst of all, enforcing us to wear mountaineering crampons to hike the pipe to shoot on the deck! I don’t own any, so have to try to buy some tomorrow, otherwise I will be seriously limited the photos I can get.

I shot 700 or so frames and 4.5 gigs worth, but I reckon only 2 to 2 and a half shots are worthy of publication (but whether the Evil Editor decides to use them is a whole different matter!) But that’s ok, it’s only practice day 1. The best shots I have to save for the exclusivity of the magazines, so these are just some fun ones from today. But I increased my chances for tomorrow when I dropped by Canon Professional Services in the MPC. They loan photo gear of all descriptions: $10,000 400mm 2.8L lens? Sure take that. Brand new $7000 Canon1D MkIV camera body? Do you want one or two? It is amazing – I’m like a (photo-nerdy) kid in a candy shop! I can’t wait to try out the gear tomorrow.

But back to Cypress – the pipe is in good shape, so the riders say, but with the fog and rain the snow is in rotten shape. Two hours into training the right wall had huge deep ruts and action was ceased an hour early. The Aussie SBX racers are stoked with their “Ninja Turtle” tops, and I think the pipe team’s uniform is great – nice and bright and excellent for photos (and much better than the sombre black they normally have). And I don’t the Japanese have a team uniform…just a general theme of looking like a clown. The Yanks have copped a little flak for their faded jeans and flannel uniforms, but in person they look awesome (although a bit too dark for good photos here). Some American commentators have called the get-up unpatriotic – I guess becuase it looks a bit messy and casual, but it really captures the good-ol-boy, truck driving yankees to a tee. And let me just say that Gretchen Bleiler looks amazing in jeans…

On that note I’ll leave you…I’m writing this in the bar underneath the backpackers I’m staying at, surrounded by drunk, shouting Canadians chanting at the replay of Dale begg-Smith losing Gold to the local boy. I think it’s about time to join them… 

12
Feb
10

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I was woken up Friday morning by the thunder of helicopters echoing off the buildings and rattling the window next to my bed – fortunately I wasn’t in some sort of Hunter S Thompson bad-acid Vietnam flashback (sorry, i’m currently reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to get in the right frame of mind for our Snowboard like a Rockstar magazine trip to LA in March). The Olympic flame was in town, and the choppers were catching all the action in downtown Van…and when I got out on the street it was packed, and the real Olympic spirit (not my manufactured, barstool one) had finally hit.

Thursday had been a great first day in town, checking out the massive MPC (Main Press Centre) and picking up my free kit, as well as running into Dan Himbrechts. Check his blog here for some more shots of pre-Olympic Vancouver. It was a busy night, first up with a ritzy reception by the AOC to introduce the Australian Team, and announce Torah as the flag-bearer. Well done, Torah! I knew how these things go, so while everyone was dressed in their semi-formal attire and on best behaviour, I, in my t-shirt and jeans headed straight for the bar and the food buffet to get the most of my tax dollars. Some snowboarders may scoff at the idea of being an Olympian, but I couldn’t help but get a real sense of excitement and pride from the “athletes” representing Australia. More than any other moment, I wanted to be up there with them, part of the Team. Maybe it seems more attainable when you see guys and girls you’ve known for years up on stage? I don’t think I’ve ever seen the last member to sneak into the snowboard team, Steph Hickey, with a bigger smile on her face!

The party was surprisingly full of sports and Channel 9 famous faces, and some out of place swimmers like Grant Hackett and Gian Rooney. The most important man in Australia gave a speech and intoduction, and even K-Rudd sent a video message perpetuating the myth that Australia “punches above its weight” on the world sporting stage – what a crock. If it weren’t for an old High Court interpretation of the Constitution that allows Australia to use taxpayer money to fund communist-styled institutional sporting programs for the “good of the country” we wouldn’t “perform” so well every 4 years. I’m all for public spending on sport, but now that the rest of the western world has cottoned on to taxpayer-funded sports programmes (except the USA, which is privately funded – ie sponsorship) don’t just expect and demand medals, Kevin. And remember, this is the same Labor that wants to cut sport spending unless a sport can guarantee medals (which affects all the marginal winter sports, except snowboarding and freestyle skiing).

After the AOC gig Dan and I then caught a cab to the aquarium where Canon and Nikon were jointly hosting a party – more open bars and hot buffets – for all the 1200 photographers. We just wanted to go along so we could pick up our gift, a limited edition Lowepro Flipside 500 camera backpack, which you can’t buy but would be worth about $300 in Oz. Score! But it was a bad idea to have a photog party at a place with some many bright and shiny things and so many enquiring eyes – I don’t think the jellyfish were allowed to float alone once…I even couldn’t help but get in on the paparazzit act, no matter how hard i tried to resist the obvious. It was a surreal, sort of nerdy party – but fun nevertheless. I got discussing Van’s shitty weather with a Canon Professional Services woman who commented that you don’t need to worry about white balance here – with all the clouds it’s always 18% grey. Haha. Photo humour.

Speaking of weather…it’s been pretty much raining the whole time i’ve been here, and doesn’t look like stopping. And I must say, i’m trying to love this city…but just can’t. What makes a city beautiful? Is it the people, the landscape, the structures or all three, plus that little bit of something else you can’t put your finger on? Van certainly gets a tick for its beautiful women, but a cross for all the pasty, splotchy-half-bearded hockey jocks. Without the advantage of makeup, fake tan or mineral bronzer, all the guys are so pale and weird looking – I swear I saw Edward Cullen yesterday. I understand why they filmed up here – the sun never shines on his glittery skin. And Van should get another tick for the theoretically snow-capped mountains across the bay, but with all this cloud, you can’t see them. The city itself is nothing special, in terms of structures, but where it really lets itself down is it’s slums right on the CBD doorstep. As the warmest city in Canada, Vancouver is mecca for the country’s homeless. They are everywhere, and then there’s all the druggies: I’ve been asked for spare change by cocky mother-fucker losers in the line for McDonalds and Pita Pit! I was walking just a couple hundred metres from the MPC and came across a homeless food shelter (I felt too intrusive to take photos) and on East Hastings there are shops selling everything to make your homeless life comfortable. There are even tourist information signs in front of the old Woodwards building that celebrate the descent into depravity that East Van has become. What’s next, Rio de Janeiro-style motorbike tours of the slums (favelas) to laugh and point at the downtrodden? Even Reno is less visibly sketchy than this place. I’ve never been to Detroit, Philly or the Bronx, but they can’t be much worse than Vancouver, except that in US slums I would be judged by the colour of my skin, and not by the content of my character, and targeted accordingly. It’s mostly white homeless here in Vancouver, which can make it hard to work out if that guy in tatty black clothes is a drug addled drifter, or just an urban hipster/emo punkster…until they get up close and you look at their eyes and skin.

Anyway, enough negativity. The Games are on, and there’s a great festive spirit all around…and I can’t wait till the weather clears (a little) and they can schedule some snowboard practice up at Cypress.




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