by Brooke Abbott from the Skyliners Junior
Wednesday, March 6th
Today we started by enjoying our first Finish breakfast; it was delicious. Joining us at breakfast were many of the other countries participating in Junior Worlds: Russia, Italy, and Austria. It is so exciting that the hotel is housing all of the competitors, so there is more opportunity for an exchange of cultures. A few times throughout the day we bumped into members of the South African Team and were able to ask them about their first experiences with the snow. Their excitement about the snow and the whole competition was infectious. Being here in Finland for the first Junior Worlds gets more exciting with each passing minute.
Practice was at around 12:00pm so we were able to warm up in the hotel conference rooms. At the rink we had more time than expected so we where able to warm up again; this time it was in the lobby of the rink towards the top of the arena. Before we warmed up we took a quick peek at the rink again. Looking out at the rink from this different vantage point, I felt a bit of vertigo but others dared to walk up to the top row of seats. They were beginning to set up the rink for opening ceremonies tomorrow. The theme for the opening is Circus and I can only imagine what it will be like tomorrow evening with the full crowd in attendance.
Skating on the practice rink felt much more comfortable today than it did yesterday, due to 10 full hours of sleep and my feet returning to their normal size. After running both the long and the short, we felt very secure in how we were skating. All our elements were solid. Getting off the ice feeling confident was a great way to go into the next 3 days. In the locker room we had a little dance party and then headed back to the hotel for lunch. We had a short break before we left for a night out on the town.
Taking the tiny 7b tram, our first stop in Helsinki was the 10 level mall, Stockmanns, where we could find almost anything. After shopping for about an hour we headed to dinner at Stone’s burger restaurant. Waiting for our food we found some board games that we could play, provided by the restaurant. A few of our girls played a Jenga type game and Connect Four. Our dinner ranged from Fish and Chips to Moose burger, which I myself tasted and found it to be very good.
Our last trip was to one more store, Luhta. Our team was eager to look at their clothing, as they were the official brand for the competition. I found a navy jacket and many of my teammates found pieces, which they loved as well. After splurging on the latest fashions of Finland, we walked back towards the hotel with shopping bags in hand ready for bed.
At the hotel we had a quick team meeting and then headed up to our Team Mom’s room for a birthday surprise for Joanna, who turned 16 today. She blew out the single candle on her birthday cake after we wished her a happy 16th. This reminded me of my first trip to worlds in Switzerland two years ago when I turned 16. Experiencing any birthday with so many important people in your life is unforgettable.
After a fun day of shopping and skating, I cannot wait to get some rest for tomorrow.
Tuesday March 5th
After only a few hours apart from one another, we met at WSA for a quick practice before heading to our flight to Frankfurt, Germany. This was our last practice together on US soil. At the end of practice our coach, Josh Babb, told us how much faith he had in us. My emotions got the better of me as I stepped off the ice, reflecting on the countless hours our team has spent to preparing for the next week.
After our first flight, we landed safely in Frankfurt, Germany and were able to grab a quick meal during the layover. When we arrived at the gate we saw a team much like ourselves: identical clothing, rolling bags, and tickets to Finland. We learned they were from South Africa coming to Finland to compete at Junior Worlds and had been traveling for 11 hours. With some time to kill, both of us took pictures and exchanged names so we could find them later on at the competition. Then we boarded our short flight eager to get to Helsinki.
Once in Helsinki we got our luggage and met with our team leaders and an official from the competition. The bus ride to the hotel was only 30 minutes. Checking in to the Scandic Hotel, we had to quickly change into our practice clothing once receiving our room assignments. Despite traveling for 17 hours we still had enough energy for a solid 45 minute practice. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to fit my swollen feet in to my skates, which seemed two sizes too small. After practice we navigated the hallways of the complex to find the official competition rink. When I entered the rink I was in awe from the size of it, there were 40 rows of chairs from the rink to the ceiling. The official from the competition told us it would most likely be filled with fans and locals. Just being able to skate in a rink like this made me feel so proud to have to come this far with this team.
After being up for 24 hours we had been in 3 countries, changed to a time zone 7 hours ahead, and managed to stay awake to experience our first Helsinki practice.