Now, it has been way too long since my last real update, so please accept my apology and read on! (I also ask your forgiveness as my computer has kacked it and I am writing this on my ipadmini.)
Almost 2 1/2 months ago, my coach Federico and I set off on the train from Modena to Wellington, New Zealand, with 100kg of baggage and a boat load of hopes and dreams. Our first challenge came the minute we stepped up to the check-in desk at the fly emirates counter. It went a little bit like this 'that will be 45€/kg over. Total overweight charge of 1350€.' Said the checkin devil-woman. 'Oh, but there must be a mistake as I called emirates yesterday to confirm we would not be charged and to put a note on our booking' I managed to stutter out. 'There is nothing in our system. You can either pay or not fly.' The she-devil replied. No words could express the noices I made next as I started to cry, but it may of been something like 'uuuuuhhhhhhh bahhhhhhhhhh hooooooowwwwwwwwwwww...thaaaaaats ou..ou..our....winter savings!' Well,they didn't care. I then proceeded to cry for 3 hours. Needless to say, not a great start to the trip.
50 hours later we had arrived in NZ- disheveled and distraught- but alive. After 2 great days with my sponsor, the New Zealand ammunition company (www.nzammo.co.nz) where I got to pick up my new ammunition from Norma (www.norma.cc), and 3 days of family catch up time, Federico and I then drove down the west coast of the South Island, Queenstown bound.
We had originally planned to spend the first 2 weeks living at the snow farm lodge to get in a good bunch of training and to have time to find a place to live. Our first week was great- great training sessions and amazing food- until I got the bill from our stay and was informed I would be getting zero funding from Biathlon New Zealand, all in one day. At that moment we realized a) we had no money to pay the bill b) we had no money for the car or the accommodation we had hoped for and c) we had no money, period. This then resulted in us leaving that day, and me washing dishes to pay off some of the bill. I thought that only happened in movies- nope, real life.
Not a problem , though- Chuck Berry to the rescue (not that chuck berry. A base-jumping, crazy, cool kiwi guy, Chuck Berry! Check him out: www.chuckberry.co.nz). We ended up moving into the shack on eastbourne station, a farm located between Wanaka and Queenstown; Hot running water, indoor toilet, and a hot fire: life was good! And at $280 nzd/ month for the both of us, it was the right price!
The only problem now is we were living in the middle of nowhere, and had no car. Chucky, neighbour extraordinaire let us borrow his car many times, which saved our lives, but most of the time for the first month we would walk 1 1/2km up the farm road to the main crown range road, and then hitchhike from there. We were normally picked up withing 20 minutes, and then would be dropped off at the bottom of the snowfarm road, where we would then hitchhike from there up the mountain to training. That was the tricky part as there were not many people going up- but we made it every time. The worst day was when it took us 2hours to get there. That was a tough training day, that one! But hitching is amazing- you meet so many amazing people and get to hear amazing stories of their lives and their adventures, and vice-versa. We really appreciated the kindness of everyone who picked us up, so when we finally were able to borrow a car, we picked up every hitchhiker we saw.
The training went really well in New Zealand even with the lack of vehicle situation. Thanks to the Queenstown Gym (www.queenstowngym.co.nz) for the membership sponsorship, we were able to go down and spend a few hours there pumpin the iron, getting strong like Arnie (and by pumpin the iron I mean getting into machines and moving my hands and feet around how I think they should go 'excuse me mam, please get out of the painters scaffolding' came to mind- http://youtu.be/_ja6QxAQCtA).
In the middle of August the New Zealand 100% pure Audi Quattro winter games started. It's an amazing event that brings in a lot of top international competitors from many sports- downhill, xc, snowboarding, free skiing, half pipe, curling. There is no biathlon yet, but the cross country categories were packed with Olympic gold medalists (Anastasia Kuzmina, Justyna kowalzcyk, Japanese world cup team, Andy Newal, Brian Mckeever, Erick Carleton, Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, alexei petukov, kriukov, just to name a few of the athletes). It was great racing for me against such great competitors. I raced all the races possible; 10km classic, 5km skate and the sprint events. I placed 6th in the classic race, 6th in the skate race, and 7th in the sprint. The most important race was the 5km skate as biathlon New Zealand and some nzoc officials were there to see where my racing was at. In the end, I was 1' 30" beings Justyna, and 47" behind Anastasia,which was a significant improvement from the last winter games. In the sprint race in 2011 against kowalzcyk, I was 1 minute behind over a 1.6 km course, and this year on the same course I was 23" behind. Everyone was very excited, which was great.
After the winter games, Federico and I both raced in our first loppet- the merino muster! 42 km in very deep, wet tough snow conditions, and a start time that was pushed back to 12:30 due to heavy fog. We were told by an amazing loppet athlete, kamila borutova, that this was a tough loppet to be our first. Beginners luck, but I had a great race and ended up in the middle of the podium behind Justyna kowalzcyk (who beat all the men but one) and Kamila Borutova (massage therapist and amazing athlete/human - www.wildflowercanmore.com). Federico, who waxed my skis which were amazing, did not have time to eat really anything before the race and as we say it in the ski world, bonked. But he finished nonetheless, even with a shoulder injury. Yahoo!
Through all of this racing and such, we had been hitch hiking up and down everyday, although we were fortunate to stay at the deserted snow park for some nights before the races to save us the travel. That was really a treat. At this time, our story had gotten out of our bad luck and money situation, which resulted in us receiving the most wonderful care packages from some of the most wonderful people: Jean and Rolly brought us steaks and eggs and tomatoes (tomatoes are considered gold in New Zealand because of their price), Jan Wood brought us delicious bread and necessities, and Ben Green brought a box of everything, including cheese! We were so overwhelmed with gratitude and love for these amazing people. We also started to receive small donations from different club members, including from my snow fairy godmothers. Vicky Wills and Jo and JP opened their homes and hearts to us when the shack became a little much! There was just so much love and thanks going around, it was wonderful :)
After the racing finished, we had then been training 5weeks without a break- needless to say I was shattered! An amazing lady and club member, Kathy and her husband David, opened their home to us and gave us the use if their truck while they were away in America. This opened a whole new world for us- a car! And a warm house for a week! Luxury! We spent 5days out in Te Anau, exploring the area and showing Federico another part of New Zealand. It was just what I needed to regenerize!
I also went up to Wellington for 2 days to pick up my new rifle thanks to the New Zealand ammunition company and Norma ammunition in Sweden! These two sponsor have helped in more ways than they know- ammunition and rifle, yes, but also taking off a load of stress and really helping to give the feeling that people are behind me on this journey to qualify for the Olympics. The new barrel and system is wonderful, so a big thank you to Norma and Paul and Jenny and all th staff at NZ ammunition company!(www.nzammo.co.nz)
After that, life was smooth sailing! We had a car, the snow was amazing, the training was perfect, and the weather was great! I had a days work bungee jumping for discovery channel, which was very cool, and Federico shot 2 rabbits for dinner! The end of the trip really picked up, which I think we needed, after the struggle at the beginning.
After 9 weeks, it was time to begin the journey back to Italy. First stop was Christchurch, where we met up with a new sponsor who actually saved our lives and sanity. SB Global Logistics, a NZ company out of Christchurch, offered to ship our overweight luggage too italy for us. FOR FREE!!!!! These guys just made my year, and the thanks I have is overwhelming! Check them out for all your shipping, especially athletes, as airlines are not the nicest. Www.sbinfo.co.nz
As we didn't have a lot of money to fly to Wellington, we found this awesome company to relocate cars. So, we relocated one to chch, and then picked up another one and drove to picton- we felt pretty poch in our prados. It also served perfect as a hotel, so really a win situation overall.
After a lovely, bumpy ferry ride and a delicious dinner of risotto with my cousins, we made it to the airport at 4:30am for our flight to Sydney, Australia, then Dubai, then Milan. 50 hours later we made it back to frassinoro (after, of course, a stop at a cafe for a real espresso for Federico). We are still recovering from such a long travel, but the weather has been amazing, the 3 puppies are huge now, and life is really good. :)
It was a crazy winter, but we lived through it, and had some amazing and crazy experiences we will never forget. The love and support from the cross- country community was amazing- there is I way to express our gratitude. I hope I will race well this season as a sort of thank you to everyone for their generosity and kindness.
Much love to all and I hope to update you all soon on coming events send schedule for the season!