What the spectators see at the 2012 BC Winter Games is only half the story; the other half lies in behind closed doors with athlete-only signs, and on sleepless rides on dark buses.
For those with all access passes to the arenas and venues that make up the Games it’s a reunion with friends you haven’t seen in two years, a close community with people who’ve got your backs, and a road-trip that they’ll never forget.
“It’s more than just the winning. I’ve taken athletes who are going to be medalists, I know that, I’ve coached many of them. I’ve also taken ones who are just there to race. They like speed skating or they’re there to support the team. So for them it’s the experience. Quite often on the long bus trip they start chatting with other people from different sports that they might never chat again with. There’s one woman, a coach from Vanderhoof, that I always meet on the bus going to the Winter Games. She’s Ping Pong. And we chat,” said Allison Leach.
Leach, coach of the Fort St. James Falcons speed skating club, and BC Games Zone 7 Speed Skating Head Coach, will be heading out to her sixth Winter Games this February with her daughter Sarah, her third daughter she has brought with her to the games.
Though her skaters don’t always come home with medals they do come home with stories and experiences that enrich their lives.
“I had one of the athletes I went with, he had never flown before,” said Leach. “He was lucky because that year we flew. Even the traveling for some of the kids in the northern communities, they travel a long ways, which they may never have done in their life.”
The adventures inherent in the trip are not always such unmixed pleasure, but the battles have a fun all their own.
“My first Games I went to my luggage went missing,” said Leach. “And you don’t have time. Everything is scheduled. By the second day of the games so many people knew my luggage was missing and they were looking for it. They’d go: ‘Oh you’re the lady who lost her luggage. We’re looking for it.’ Some people with our club that were watching they’re daughter race, bought me an outfit so that I could survive.”
She could tell stories all day of her adventures. There’s the time they didn’t have shower curtains, another time they were without hot water, and yet another time when they didn’t have showers at all. Each story Leach relays with a smile and a sense of humour.
“You kind of learn, for the athletes, to go on the fly, to invent, to not be rigid or think that it has to be this way,” said Leach.
Each of these hurdles creates stories that can be told for year, and they foster the community that is growing in the games.
“Even though you’ll never see those people again, they were looking out for you, and trying to accommodate, or solve the problem, or whatever it is,” said Leach.
So each year she goes back to meet with her once-every-two-years-friends and enjoy the adventure.