I cannot believe I am writing these words:
The plan was successful!
Now how it all went down…..
Step 1: Get my friend in Munich to send my passport by overnight courier to me in Estonia.
The passport was sent successfully and DHL had it on its way to Estonia.
Step 2: Receive passport on Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning I was training in Otepaa and I ran (skied actually) into the Australian athlete, Lucy. She was heading to Tallin to get her visa as well, and also told me that the Tartu embassy was closed until Thursday. My passport still had not arrived, and the Aussies were heading at 5pm. At 4:45 there was a knock on the door and a lovely angel-like man in a postman uniform delivered my passport. So, I packed up and went to Tallin with Lucy, her mother and her coach. Fingers crossed!
Step 3: Embassy opens. Go to the embassy in Tartu, Estonia and apply for an express visa.
The Tallin embassy was open, and at 9:04am we were there, already lined up behind 10 other people. We got to the front, and the lady told us we were in the wrong place. After speaking to a few others, we were actually in the right place but I had the wrong papers. So off I went to search for a passport support office, (which I found down a dark alleyway near an exotic lady dancer bar), and the woman there filled out and printed the form for 20 cents- What a deal! Off back to the Russian embassy where they processed my visa in 20 minutes and everything was set!
Step 4: Get driven to Russian border with rifle and skis.
Drove with Aussies- No problem J
Step 5: Go through Estonian customs, hoping not to get arrested for being in Europe for longer than 3 months.
We drove to the Russian border, and after waiting an hour or so and taking out rifles through, they took my passport. After some painstaking moments where they looked up all the info, I was stamped through to Russia!
Step 6: Walk 300m across Russian border with rifle.
Well, I didn’t have to walk this time- Luckily I was with the Aussies!
Step 7: Go through Russian customs. Hoping not to be kidnapped or put in prison for who know what. (Although being turned into a Russian spy could be neat).
Stamped with no problem! YES!
Step 8: Police take rifle. I get a transport to Ostrov.
At the Russian border we waited forever to get our rifles through. 2 hours later we were given the go ahead, and we drove to Ostrov arriving at 3am. Phew!
Step 9: Race and make necessary qualification.
The next morning at 11:30am I jumped on a police escorted bus with all the other female athletes and we headed to the venue. Our hotels were 1 hour away so the bus ride gave us all time to admire the very desolate fields- very different to other places I have been. I love Russia because of this. The people are so interesting, and how they live is so different to many of us. It was an eye opener.
The rifles were kept in locked cabinets, so after picking my rifle up, I headed out to ski the trails. Amazing! Ostrov has very beautiful ski trails and an amazing biathlon range. It was such a treat to be in a random spot in Russia, at such a great venue.
The first race day was the 7.5km sprint and I was starter number 30. I was really tired after the long travel and all the stress, but I was looking forward to the race. I came in for prone and hit 4/5. After a penalty loop, I headed out on the trail, feeling good but very scared about standing. Into standing I went thinking about how, if I missed them all, I would buy a van and travel through Spain. Well, I ended up hitting all 5- Ah wow- was not expecting although, after getting the new barrel weight, my shooting has completely turned around. In the end I ended up 21st, 9.3% behind- meaning I made my 12% qualification for the next set of World Cups! PLAN SUCCESSFUL!
The next day I started 21st in the Pursuit race, a race I have not started very often. After shooting 1-1-1-0 (17/20) I moved up 2 places, finishing in 19th- Pumped! It was a great race to finish the crazy 2 weeks on the IBU cup.
Step 10: Celebrate the success of this cunning plan!
Instead of Celebrating a successful plan, I got on a bus at 7pm with the French team and drove to Riga, Latvia (Making it through the border faster this time, although with no less stress) and arrived at 2 am. After lying on a metal bench for 4 hours, the plane took off for Frankfurt and then Munich, where I ran like a madwoman to catch the train to Switzerland. 7 hours later, and after some stressful moments with the German police on the train, I made it back to S-chanf!
Now what? Well, I am waiting to hear if I will get a wildcard. If I do then here is the schedule:
Feb 1-3 = Martell IBU cup
Feb 5th- 13th- Biathlon World Championships, Nove Mesto, Czech Republic
Feb 19th- 26th= Cross- country World Championships- Val Di Fiemme, Italy
Feb 27th – March 3rd- Oslo World Cup
March 4th- 10th- Sochi World Cup
March 11th- 17th- Khanty-Mansysk World Cup.
Xoxo Sarah J