Russian volunteers are obsessed by Steven Bradbury. Not Torah, not Dale, not Lydia but Steven as reported by Natalie Peters.
The last thing I expected arriving at Moscow Airport on my way to Sochi to cover the Olympics, was Steven Bradbury’s Russian fan club. But that’s exactly what I found.
Walking along the grey, oh so grey, corridors at Domodedova Airport, I was struck by how little it felt like a country about to host the Games. There were no signs, no hot pink lines leading you to Customs like there were in London. I was starting to wonder if I’d missed something. But then, around another grey corner, I came across a track suit wearing, smiling volunteer holding a sign saying ‘Sochi.’ He couldn’t have been older than 14.
Welcome Natalie Peters to Snow It All. Broadcaster, journalist, skier and former ice skating ‘champion’ with an uncanny ability to sleep on planes. Nat is covering the Olympic Games for 2GB in Sydney where she is Deputy News Director. She will be filing exclusive blogs for us from the ground in Russia.
The young one led me to the counter where I handed over my accreditation paperwork and nervously waited for my passport to be stamped. Russia has a way of intimidating you even when you’ve done nothing wrong. Then the boy then passed me on to another volunteer, who was in charge of helping me find my bags.
It was easy to like Hasmik Aramyan – she was bubbly and couldn’t wait to welcome me to Russia. When the 19 year old asked where I was from and heard Australia, her eyes lit up and she squealed, “Australia, Steven Bradbury!”
She then informed me our gold medal winning speed skater is somewhat of a God among Olympic volunteers here in Russia. He features prominently in the training video they were shown in the lead up to the Games. Hasmik told me Bradbury’s last man standing win and never give up attitude made him the favourite.
“So in airports they’re all waiting for him,” she says. “They’re hoping to see him, maybe even take a photo of him.”
It’s an especially interesting choice of idols for these young Russians, given the South Korean favourite who fell in that final in 2002, clearing the way for Bradbury to claim gold, has since changed his name to Viktor and will be racing under the Russian flag.
As we waited close to an hour for my suitcase, Hasmik, an economics student, blushed as she told me she and her volunteer buddies googled Bradbury to find out what he’s up to now. She was all over it – he’s a commentator, is coming to Sochi, has a young family, and still rocks that spiky hair.
I was impressed! When I told her I’d let him know he has a fan at Moscow Airport, her hands slapped to her cheeks like a school girl invited backstage at a One Direction concert.
So Steven, please meet the head of your Sochi Volunteer fan club. And be ready for the airport process to take even longer than it did for me – I have a feeling you’re about to get swamped!