Day 7 – Sea to Sky

View of competitor leaving starting gate during the Women’s Alpine Skiing Combined Downhill at the Vancouver Olympics (Photo by Donald Miralle)

The parking pass in Mike Powell’s car that allows us to drive in between mountain and city venues is titled “Sea to Sky”, referring to Highway 99 also known as Sea to Sky Highway, a beautiful road with panoramic views of the ocean, islands, and mountains. Without this parking pass you wouldn’t be able to drive from Vancouver to Whistler and would have to rely on the bus system, which would really suck at 12am when you just finished shooting the Men’s Figure Skating Final in Vancouver and have plans to shoot the Super G in the morning in Whistler. As I’m writing this blog at 12:45am driving on the Sea and Sky in Mike’s FJ Cruiser, its’ the first time today I’ve had a chance to sit back and reminisce about a very long day, and the first week of the Vancouver Olympics.

Lindsey Vonn of the USA prepares herself at the starting house in the Women’s Alpine Skiing Combined Downhill at Whistler Olympic Park (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Kaylin Richardson #25 of the USA competes the Women’s Alpine Skiing Combined Downhill at Whistler Olympic Park during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics on February 18, 2010 in Whistler, Canada. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

The alarm went off at the customary time of 6am, and I threw on my clothes grabbed my camera bag, stuffed a spare bag full of clothes and computer stuff, and jumped into a cab like I had done so many times in the past 7 days. The difference between this day and previous days was I had the grandious plans of covering an event in Whistler, heading down the hill to cover a city event, then back up to cover an event in Whistler the next morning. After the cab dropped me off in Creekside, I headed up the Gondola with a specific shot in mind that would either work out or totally screw my chances of getting another shot at the Women’s Combined Downhill.

Freelance photographer Erich Schlegel helps out with snow steps

Macarena Simari Birkner of Argentina #34 takes the leap of faith (Photo by Donald Miralle)

As I skied down to the start house, I knew I would have to play my cards right if I was going to have any chance to get a good start shot. At the Torino Olympics in 2006, I successfully infiltrated the start house for the Women’s Downhill, and made a nice frame out of it. The challenge with this shot is that you’re dealing with a very small area, filled with FIS (Federation of International Skiing) Officials, Omega Timing Folks, NBC TV crew, and the athletes who are preparing to throw themselves down the hill. The last thing you want to do is step on someone’s feet (or skis) or get in the way. After I parked my skies and attached my camera bag to some fencing with a carbineer, I walked over to the start house to try to find some friends.

Evan Lysacek of the USA wins the gold medal in the Men’s Figure Skating Long Program at Pacific Coliseum during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics on February 18, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Denis Ten spins like a top at the Men’s Figure Skating Long Program. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Bad hair day for Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland (Photo by Donald Miralle)

I first ran into freelance photographer and friend Erich Schlegel (he’s blogging the Olympics too at, who was in the middle of trying to attached a remote to the outside of the start house. After messing around with his magic arm and camera for a bit, he saw me and walked over and decided to just shoot it with his handheld camera which was probably a good idea. I looked around for more familiar faces to chat up, and saw the same NBC guy who I was sharing space with at the Torino Race and tried to make small talk so Vanoc officials in the blue jackets (we call them smurfs) wouldn’t walk over to me and bug me. After giving a couple Newsweek pins out (thanks Mark they’re better than gold!) I made friends with a couple of the FIS officials and VANOC folks and I was in like Flynn. I hung around the back of the start house and kept out of the way while taking snaps sparingly. After the top girls went through, they got more and more lax with how close I could get into the start gate and by the end of it I was mirroring the TV guy and getting some nice stuff.

Nobunari Oda of Japan goes to fix his skate in the Men’s Figure Skating Long Program (Photo by Donald Miralle)

There’s a reason they call it the “Kiss and Cry” (Photo by Donald Miralle)

I was on a pretty tight schedule if I was to make the Men’s Ice Skating Long Program tonight, with a show down between defending Olympic Champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia, American Evan Lysacek, and Japanese rising star Daisuke Takahashi. We had an assignment for Koji Aoki and AFLO agency to shoot the crap out of the Japanese skaters, especially Takahashi. I hunker down in the overhead position with long glass, which was like shooting fish in a barrel. It turned out to be an interesting night starting with Nobunari Oda, descendant of an ancient Japanese family (from Samurais to Figure Skaters) fell during his routine and had his lace come undone resulting in him having to take a technical timeout to fix it. Then flamboyant Johnny Weir of the USA gave a amazing performance only to get low scored from the judges while he sat on the Kiss and Cry with a wreath of red roses on his head. Fellow American followed that circus act by absolutely nailing his routine while heavily favored Russian had a conservative run with a little stumble on a landing, which probably cost him the gold.

Daisuke Takahashi of Japan falls on the ice en route to a bronze medal in the Men’s Figure Skating Long Program (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Daisuke Takahashi of Japan reacts to his score en route to a bronze medal (Photo by Donald Miralle)

We’re now pulling into the hotel in Upper Village now, it’s been a long but good day and have about 4 hours before we do it all again. But at the very least we will not be traveling on the Sea and Sky…

Not sure if the judges went for this quasi-vulgar move by Evgeni Plushenko (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Evan Lysacek of the USA gives up the nice jubo winning the gold medal in the Men’s Figure Skating Long Program at Pacific Coliseum during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics on February 18, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Donald Miralle)


  1. Don the pictures are simply amazing. You never fail to change your name to “Flynn” and blend into whatever surrounding there is. It’s like you go into the human camo mode. Excellent work!

  2. I’m really enjoying the blog – you are doing just great. The pic of the Russian skater is….well, I’m glad Evan won! Miss you, Love, Mom

  3. Donald- i love this! so much fun living vicariously… and you never fail to get into places you should not be- why does that not surprise me?!

    Keep up the good work, be safe and take care of yourself please!

  4. Your stories of infiltrating to gain access to inside, off limits places reminds me of Danny and John’s escapades around the country following OSU football games! Thanks for showing us the Olympic world and, of course, the pics!
    Love, from Ohio -Dori, Biggest Dan and Mary

  5. Hmmm…reminds me of the time you snuck to surf during your volunteer photo shoot for the school and told me not to tell. Where does Wukey get it from? Love following your blog…feel like we’re there. Miss you and want you to stay safe.

    The still pics of the men’s figure skating are classic! Can we use the Plushenko one for Seth’s office?


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