A Snowstorm Couldn't Stop Me From Meeting Speed Skating Gold Medalist Erin Jackson

NBC 7's Steven Luke is in Beijing, China covering the 2022 Winter Olympics from Jan. 4th to the 20th.

Erin Jackson (left) who made history, becoming the first Black woman to win a speed skating medal by taking home gold in the women's 500m final in Beijing, sits next to NBC 7 anchor Steven Luke, Feb. 13, 2022.
Steven Luke

Monday, Feb. 14th:

❄ A lot has changed in Beijing since my last update … I mean we actually have real snow on the ground here now! The last few days were pretty mellow for me with fewer live shots as Super Bowl LVI moved into the limelight. But, now the big game is over and the winter games stretch run to closing ceremony is upon us!

I woke up Sunday to a snowstorm outside my window, which apparently is pretty rare for this city. Despite the freezing temperatures, Beijing averages less than an inch of snow in the month of February. It’s normally pretty dry. So … nothing like a blizzard alert to head out and explore a new location in the mountains where sliding and downhill skiing events take place!

My San Diego colleague Jason who runs our tech operations joined me for the adventure. To get to our final stop we ended up taking a train, two different cars, a shuttle and three gondolas (not in that order). I kept telling myself “the journey is the destination,” which helped me keep the right frame of mind since I’m typically goal oriented when it comes to travel.

NBC 7 Anchor Steven Luke rides a gondola into the mountains outside of Beijing at the Winter Olympics, Feb. 13, 2022.
Steven Luke
NBC 7 Anchor Steven Luke rides a gondola into the mountains outside of Beijing at the Winter Olympics, Feb. 13, 2022.

We shared the final leg of the trip on the shuttle and gondolas with a print reporter out of the United Kingdom. He was filling in for a “lazy” colleague, as he put it, and wasn’t excited about standing for hours at the bottom of the slalom course for the men’s finals. The gondolas run up a canyon between steep rocky mountains. There aren’t very many tall trees, making it look more like high dessert than the sierras. The mountain ski facilities between Gondolas resemble James Bond lairs.

After about three hours of travel we reached the end point of our journey. We couldn’t go any farther. Knowing we still had to do same trip back to the hotel, we watched four skiiers complete their slalom run and turned around.

NBC 7 Anchor Steven Luke stands at the bottom of a ski run in the mountains outside of Beijing at the Winter Olympics, Feb. 13, 2022.
Steven Luke
NBC 7 Anchor Steven Luke stands at the bottom of a ski run in the mountains outside of Beijing at the Winter Olympics, Feb. 13, 2022.

I’ve been here long enough where few things surprise me anymore about the Olympic bubble, but it’s still strange when you walk out of your hotel room to a robot rolling down the hallway squirting disinfectant into the air.

An air-sanitizing robot rolls down a hotel hallway in Beijing during the Winter Olympics, Feb. 13, 2022.
Steven Luke
An air-sanitizing robot rolls down a hotel hallway in Beijing during the Winter Olympics, Feb. 13, 2022.

I also wanted some ice for my hotel room and called the front desk for a delivery. A woman in a hazmat suit showed up minutes later with a small igloo cooler and scooped it into my bucket outside the door. I also had a new revelation, which I hadn’t really thought about until recently: all of the Chinese people who are in the Olympic bubble with us are not going home at night. They’re in the bubble too until the games are over.

A person looks up a ski slope in the mountains outside of Beijing at the Winter Olympics, Feb. 13, 2022.
Steven Luke
A person looks up a ski slope in the mountains outside of Beijing at the Winter Olympics, Feb. 13, 2022.

The “closed loop system” put in place for these games means everyone working at the hotel and volunteering at the venues and working the games are not going home to their families at night. Most of the volunteers we see are college students who speak pretty good English.

I’ve had the chance to catch up with a few more Olympic medalists in person including Chloe Kim and Erin Jackson. Jackson’s story is pretty incredible in that she just started speed skating on ice five years ago.

Most of these Olympic specialists (aside from the sliders who usually come from other sports) have been on skis or skates since before grade school. Jackson said she still feels like she is still in the “infancy of her time in this sport.” When is the last time you heard a gold medalist say that?

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