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How Did Paula End up at the Olympics Anyway?

Wait, so how did Paula end up in Russia at the Olympics? This has been the burning question of the month. Read on and all will be revealed…

It was a sunny Sunday summer’s afternoon in Wanaka, when my phone beeped, well more of a “ding dong”. It was a text message from Bex (Sinclair) USA cell.

Bex "What are you doing around early February? Want to come to Sochi? 

Paula "I just cleared my schedule - I'm keen."

Bex replied with "I will put your name down then, awesome". Well, that was easy I thought! Was it a competition, was it a promotion – not sure, doesn’t matter, Sochi sounds fun! The next day, an email comes through from an advertising agency in Germany via Bex. We need to make videos or “selfies” as they call them. They want to see us on camera and see our video skills. The details were sparse, but it was definitely something to do with Volkswagen and friendship.

Side note: Bex Sinclair is currently New Zealand’s best female halfpipe snowboarder. She represented at the Olympics in 2010, and is ranked at #2 on the World Cup Tour for the 2014 season. She also happens to be a good friend of mine, as we trained together a couple of years back in my hay day!

So cut to a long story short – each time we would send in a video, it seemed like we would make it through to the next round. Then several videos later we got the email and it was official, we had ‘won’. Not that we knew what we had won exactly, but I was going to Russia!

My visa arrived in the nick of time, literally! And although I still did not know what I was doing, what I did know was that I was headed to Russia, someone from Volkswagen would pick me up from Sochi Airport, and I would get to see Bex compete in the half pipe event.

Queenstown – Sydney – Abu Dhabi – Moscow - Sochi

Side Note: Yeah, that's a loooong way!

Fast forward. I am at the Sochi airport and my heart rate is up. How will I know who is picking me up? As I walked out in the arrivals hall, people and signs forever, my heart pounding, before I knew it they recognise me from my ‘selfies’, a Volkswagen scarf was put over my head, I was flanked by two people, and getting my photo taken. Gosh I thought, 27 hours flying… I’m certainly not looking my best! I was then whisked away in a Sochi 2014 Volkswagen car.

Arriving at the hotel, I was greeted in the lobby by a line of people. Similar to how the Queen or President meets people. I went along the line, shook everyones hand, and immediately forgot their names. I was taken to my room, which to my amazement was bigger than our house. I am certainly no rock star, but I sure felt like one.

The next few days were a whirlwind of over stimulation. Sightseeing in Alder, Olympic Park, meeting Vanessa Mae (the famous violinist/ Olympic skier), Volkswagen showcase parties, eating Russian Shashlik, and of course the highlight meeting up with Bex in the Mountain Cluster village. It was only day three, I had had almost no down time, and I was already exhausted.

Some details however had arisen of what I was even doing there. I had originally assumed lots of people had won this contest… turns out just 4 athletes from the games got to bring a friend. Out of the whole world, Bex and I were chosen! So cool! In exchange for bringing and hosting me in Russia, Bex and I would spend some time with a film crew, who would make a short 3-minute clip about friendship at the Olympics for a promotion for Volkswagen. That sounds easy, and secretly Bex and I have always wanted to be TV stars.

Essentially I got to hang out in Russia with Bex, do cool touristy things while they film us. Easy! We got the better end of deal here!

The most important day of all was Bex’s competition day, which was the main point I was really there. Bex was competing and also another good friend Hannah Trigger from Australia, as well as a few others.

Bex is an excellent snowboarder and we had anticipated her making it right through to the finals. She certainly has the ability too. To be able to perform at your peak, in the moment you need to, is a lot harder than you can even imagine. It starts days, weeks, even years before your event. And although Bex has done this many times before, today was not her day. She ended up crashing both her runs, which is very unusual for her and she did not proceed to finals. No one was more upset and ‘gutted’ about this than Bex. She wanted more than anything to place well in the finals to inspire and make New Zealanders proud. You can see in her interviews after, she had the weight of New Zealand in her shoulders and was just so disappointed. Me and anyone who knows her, was gutted for her too.

Side note: Gutted = bitterly disappointed

Side note: Bex has placed consistently in the finals of world cups and open events over the past few years.

With the competition behind us, the next day was our most fun day of all. We spent some time on the roof top my hotel while they filmed Bex’s interview. Then we were taken to a pizza place for lunch and to watch the mens ski slopestyle. Then onward to an amusement park, which was somehow frozen in time from the 80’s. A bunch of rides and huge ball of candy floss later, we were taken to press conference for Volkswagen. Then several other TV channel interviews later, we found ourselves finally in Olympic Park and free of cameras. After a private tour of the Cola-Cola showcase, and even after drinking one from a special Olympic bottle, we were exhausted. The best day ever!

We stood outside the Coca-Cola showcase, the Olympic flame just 400 meters away, was literally just too far. We wanted to get our photo, but we just could not do it! We headed back to the Volkswagen showcase for dinner and then home.

After 3 hours sleep I was at the airport and Sasha our driver was hugging me good bye. He spoke in Russian or maybe it was German, but I am sure he said something like travel safe kiwi Paula, and I headed through security. The end of my Russian whirlwind adventure had arrived. I was headed home.

To Watch the Video Click Here

For some cool photos from my trip keep scrolling down...

Or to be Entertained by my Previous Olympic Blogs, click below...

  • 8th January - History and Introduction
  • 15th January - A Little Bit about my Favourite Sports
  • 22nd January - Introducing Athletes from New Zealand
  • 29th January - Introducing Athletes from Australia
  • 19th February - In Sochi at the Olympics what was it really like?
  • 24th February - Events wrap up - New Zealand Ski and Snowboard Results


Posted By: Paula Mitchell, @ Fri, 7th Mar 2014

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