We were a small but lively team of four Canadian athletes competing at the 24th Ondrej Nepela Memorial in Bratislava for the 5th stop in the ISU Challenger Series. It was an exciting week, and marked a nice way to start off my season with invaluable overseas competition experience.
After landing in Vienna and just a short shuttle across the Austria-Slovakia border, we arrived in downtown Bratislava. We stayed at the Hotel Lindner – a comfortable, modern hotel connected to an upscale shopping mall – which was a convenient 10-minute walk from the Ondrej Nepela Stadium and Arena. The venue itself was beautiful, with numerous small historical photographs decorating the halls and pillars, including the iconic home-ice victory of Ondrej Nepela at the 1973 World Figure Skating Championships.
Despite our focus and spending majority of our time on competition preparations, the time we did have exploring what we could of Bratislava was quite enjoyable, with the last days of summer seemingly lingering around for us until we departed (it was a balmy 26˚C on our days there).
After the free programs had finished and the competition had come to a close, we had some time to head to the historic Old Town at night via tram. Having a chance to walk around and see the beautiful aged buildings amongst bustling Saturday night crowds was definitely a highlight of the trip. We concluded with an idyllic team dinner overlooking the cobblestoned city avenues, where we tasted some local Slovak dishes. Bryndzové Halušky (small potato dumplings with goat cheese and smoked bacon bits) was a popular choice, and we tried a dessert that we had thought would be apple-filled by the photographs, but ended up being Makovník (a sweet pastry/roll made with ground poppy seeds and milk). It was interesting – mainly because we couldn’t for the life of us guess what the filling was – but still delightful.
At the suggestion of Joanne, our team leader for the week, we decided to commemorate our final night by taking a few team pictures before we left –Mackenzie and Dmitre tried their hand at some dance lifts, drawing considerable attention and a group of female photo bombers at one point. It was a fun way and a great note to end our trip on.
So now, after nearly 24 hours of travel (and many irregular sleep intervals later), I am back home in Vancouver and ready to resume training. I can’t wait to see what the season holds ahead!
Until next time,