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Student-Athlete Summer Blog: Maggie Skjelbred #6

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Traveling to Russia was more exhausting than I expected. It only took two hours to fly from Oslo to Moscow, but we had to spend the night at the airport. Even though I have slept at an airport before I didn't get any sleep this time. Probably because of the excitement for what was waiting for us in Kazan.

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When we got to the airport in Kazan, volunteers had shown up and were cheering for us. They wanted to take pictures and wanted autographs! We then took a bus to the athlete village, where we had to go through a security check when entering.

The athlete village is huge with about 24 dorm-style houses where all the athletes live. There are about 12,000 athletes competing in 27 different sports from 166 different countries. There are 50 venues, 39 of which were built specifically for the Universiade. Norway set a national record by bringing 87 competitors, but that is nothing compared to Japan, which brought 600, and Russia, which has over 1,000 athletes competing!

The day after we got here we had our first practice in the main volleyball arena. It is actually the home court of the Russian professional club Dynamo, where Yekaterina Gamova (Russian national team player) plays. There are four gyms for women's volleyball, so each day we trained in a different gym.

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Photo from first practice session in Russia

Monday we are playing our first match against Canada and on Tuesday we are playing against Brazil.

On Saturday
, the opening ceremony took place. We had to wait for a while outside of the arena but it was absolutely worth it! I did not expect the arena to be so filled up, but 50,000 people showed up to watch us walk in and cheer for us! When all the teams had walked in, the show started. The show was amazing and left a big impression on us. I got chills multiple times because of the dancers, many of which are performers with Cirque de Soleil.

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View from outside the stadium at the Opening Ceremony!

IMG_3208.JPGBeing cheered on my 50,000 fans is something I will never forget!


After the show Vladimir Putin and the president of the student association made speeches. The final part was the lighting of the University Games torch. Four Russian athletes ran around the arena with the flame and then lit the torch. The ceremony is definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life!!

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The torch has been lit! Let the games begin!!

The whole village, the opening ceremony and all the athletes is a lot to process. I still haven't realized that I'm actually here. It is an experience I will definitely take with me and remember for the rest of my life. I am so proud to be able to represent my country! On Monday we meet Canada for our first match, wish us good luck!

Raise High,
Maggie

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