The next several days followed this general routine. We’d wake up bright and early, eat breakfast, go to country training, train, come home, eat lunch, head to the competition, come home, do some off skate, eat dinner, sleep, repeat. Training sessions became less and less exhausting as the days went by. The floor didn’t get any less horrible, and the heat didn’t get any less crippling but we felt a bit better about it all. In our rare moments of free time, we’d explore the shopping complex.
We hit the supermarket and looked at all the weird and wonderful food. We bought some random fruit to try, we’d try out all the different restaurants. Our restaurant of choice ended up being Crepes and Waffles, so Colombian, I know. I swear, I ate sushi, teppanyaki, Italian, Mexican, Subway and crepes. All Colombian classics, right? One thing that we discovered was amazing was the Limonada de Coco. Coconut Lemonade. Holy Lord it was good.
The people we bonded with most were the South Australian girls. They were so supportive and friendly and actively cultivated a spirit of unity and team-togetherness. We couldn’t skate a program without them hollering encouragement from the sidelines. We, of course hollered back. We shared crazy taxi rides with them and had lunch with them. If you had told me when I was 8 years old that I’d be on the same team as and having lunch and hanging out with Tammy and Amanda Bryant I would have told you to shut up.
After hearing all the comments people made about Colombia before I left, I was tentative about going there, but there was never a time while I was there that I felt unsafe. One of the big things is dodgy taxis. As soon as you walk out of the airport at Bogota a sign reads “Don’t get into unregistered taxis” so it’s obviously a problem. But at every taxi rank, at the hotel and at the venue, there were security people and even police verifying the legitimacy of each taxi and making sure everything was in order. And the taxi drivers were lovely! I mean, none of them could speak English and hardly any of us could speak Spanish but we still managed to have conversations through pointing, gesturing and laughing. The only time when it was a bit hairy was on a day after country training where there was a protest in the city so the traffic was intense. In an attempt to cheat the traffic, our taxi driver took us a convoluted way through the back streets. Unfortunately, the back streets were also chocker block with traffic. (Side note: In traffic, people on motorbikes, just drive up on the footpath like it’s no big thing.) Suddenly, the driver pulls over and makes a gesture that we interpret to mean that he’s hot and needs a drink of water. We very quickly learned that what it actually meant was that the engine was hot and needed a drink of water. So he got a bottle of water out of the boot and started cooling down the engine while we sweltered in the sun on the cramped backseat. Then he disappeared for ten minutes while he got more water. Panicking, that we didn’t know where we were and the taxi wouldn’t start and not wanting to hail a random unverified cab in the middle of the city, we hung tight until eventually, the engine started. What should have been a 20 minute trip took us over an hour that day. Not funny. What was funny, however, is that the sketchy hair salon we broke down in front of had a huge photo of Taylor Swift in her “Fearless” days as the model. Pretty sure Tay-Tay doesn’t know that she is endorsing a dodgy hairdresser in Cali, Colombia.
When we weren’t training on skates at the rink or sweltering in taxis, we were doing video analysis of the morning’s training on Esther’s king sized bed or doing some off skate matching. A couple of days we did the off skate in the gym as you’d expect, but one day when the gym was occupado, we ended up doing our off skate practice on the rooftop terrace at the hotel to an audience of confused shopping center patrons. It was pleasant up there in the evening but it was extremely windy and none of us wanted to lose our jackets in the breeze during the costume change so it was very high-stress.
Most evenings were spent watching the competition. The venue was a cycling velodrome with open sides, through which you could see the mountains over the horizon and the Jesus statue looking on from his spot up the hill. The open air feel was nice, until you realised that you had to add glare off the floor, intense wind, dirt being blown in onto the floor and being blinded by the afternoon sun to your list of things that make competing stressful.
The days flew by, and before we knew it, it was time for Robert’s Long Program where he finished 12th, and then it time for quartets and before long, it was the day we had waited and worked for.