February 7, 2014
I walked back into the village, still aglow from the opening ceremony, as were the other hundreds of athletes around me. Everyone was talking quickly and excitedly and sharing photos. As soon as I could, I ducked down the hall into my room.
"WHOO!" Max said, beanie askew and enthusiastically waving his flag. "That was AMAZING!"
"Calm down!" I said, changing into a Team USA t-shirt.
"I'm just too freaking amped!" he screamed, shaking my shoulders. I put my hands on his and held him down.
"Come on, man, keep it cool. We've got that party at the rink."
He took off his beanie and sweater and changed into a t-shirt. He grabbed my arm. "Come on, man, let's go!" he said.
We ran through the halls, pushing past Russians and Ukrainians having conversations, a group of Swedish skiers playing tag in one of the atria, Chinese and Irish girls hanging out at the cafe, and a couple Norwegians flirting with Peruvian girls, until we got to the ice rink.
It was packed. Everyone was on the ice, or in various stages of putting on skates. People were milling about, introducing each other, laughing. Max and I laced on skates and glided out onto the ice.
We hadn't been on the ice since practice back home. It felt good to be back there, the cold, the slight wobbling at first, the sound of metal scraping and slicing frozen water.
A loud shout silenced us. We all looked over at a tall man in a German uniform standing on a cooler. He was held in place by two of his teammates.
"Wir danken für Ihr Kommen." he started. "Wir sind alle sehr stolz, hier in Sotschi. Wir sind in der Blüte unseres Lebens. Ja, es darf gefeiert werden!"
Everyone cheered. I cheered with them, though I asked Max, "Do you know what he said?"
"No idea. Come on, let's skate!"
We skated around for a while, talking to people. It was kind of annoying having the figure and speedskaters darting in and out of us, but it was still fun. Someone started passing around some Russian beer in plastic cups. It tasted nothing like the stuff I was used to, but I drank it in the spirit of the Games.
Eventually, the ice started thinning out as people started leaving. A New Zealander I was talking to was leaving on the arm of some Turkish guy when I was knocked down onto the ice.
"Max," I started, picking myself up. "How many-"
"Disculpe, señor!" the girl who bumped into me said. I was struck by her for a moment before regaining my voice.
"No, it's no trouble. Es mi culpa." I said, hoping my three years of Spanish in high school would pay off.
She had big, dark eyes and a long, curly ponytail that ran down her back. Her skin was tanned slightly, probably from days spent on the slopes. She was small with powerful legs. Her Spanish was thickly accented with the Argentine accent I heard on my trip to Buenos Aires.
I held my hand out. "Tienes problemas patinando sobre el hielo?" I asked.
"No, no tengo problemas." she responded. "Mi amiga allí me empujó."
I looked over and saw a small a petite Japanese girl staring at us while skating with some other figure skaters.
"No es una problema." I replied. "Me llamo Ryan. Cómo te llamas?"
"Magdalena Castro. Soy de la Argentina."
"En cuál deporte vas a competir?" I asked as we skated back towards the entrance.
"En el biatlón. Y tu?"
She nodded. "Vas a competir el domingo, no?"
"Sí." I said. "Y cuándo vas a competir?"
"El martes." she said. We walked out of the rink and took our skates off. We talked more as we walked until we reached the main atrium.
"Cuándo veo a ti otra vez?" she asked.
"Quiéres desayunar en el café manana?"
"Sí. Nos vemos." she said, walking back to her room.
"Nos vemos!" I called after her.
*If my German sucks, don't blame me, blame these guys.