Monday morning blues? Olympians must return to work
For the past two weeks they have been feted as Olympians, but many of the men and women at the Pyeongchang Winter Games will this week return to their jobs and the humdrum of daily life.
For every Lindsey Vonn, the American ski star, there are dozens like Dominik Maerki, the Swiss curler and bronze medallist who will go back to his day job where there are bills to be paid, customers to keep happy and livelihoods to be sustained.
As you would expect when there are nearly 3,000 athletes from across the planet, almost every profession is covered.
But the 27-year-old Maerki, a reserve in the Swiss team, believes he may be the only watchmaker at the Olympics in South Korea.
Maerki studied watch-making for four years and later moved to Miami for his trade, before opening his own watch and clock repair businesses in the southern US state of Arkansas.
“I dated an American girl, now my wife, and ended up there. I have my own repair store, I fix watches and more complicated things and also repair a lot of clocks like grandfather clocks, wall clocks, kitchen clocks,” said Maerki.
There is some crossover between curling and the fiddly mechanics of a watch or clock, said Maerki. “For sure the eyes. Watchmakers need to have really good eyes and steady hands too — for the release of the rock (in curling), that could help a little bit.”
Polish speed skater Zbigniew Brodka said his profession helps put the pressure of the Olympics into perspective.
The 33-year-old won 1,500m gold at Sochi 2014, but when he’s not in his skin-tight skating suit, Brodka is a firefighter.
“When I went back to work it was very crazy. Even now it often happens that people recognize me on the street. It is a nice feeling,” said Brodka, who was 12th in the 1,500m in Pyeongchang.
“Working as a firefighter makes me stronger mentally. I am not that stressed doing sport because I see tragedy and bad things when I am at work.”
Norwegian curler Kristin Skaslien was back at her desk in Oslo, where she is an operations analyst for a maritime company, when she got a call to return to Pyeongchang — on a free first-class ticket — to collect her bronze medal.
She and partner Magnus Nedregotten were retrospectively awarded bronze in the mixed team event after a Russian curler tested positive for a banned substance.
“I sent my boss a text message telling him, ‘I’ve got first-class tickets to South Korea, I’ll be back by Tuesday’,” said Skaslien.
The feats of nurses, car mechanics, soldiers, watchmakers and firefighters make for feel-good stories each Olympics.
But there is a serious side because whereas the likes of Vonn earn handsomely and benefit from rich sponsorships, many Olympians struggle to get enough money together just to compete.
At the Pyeongchang Games the British bobsledders Mica McNeill and Mica Moore resorted to crowdfunding — as did many others — to keep their Olympic dream alive.
Joanne Courtney is a Canadian curler who is also a nurse. Far from missing the adulation and bright lights of the Olympics, the 28-year-old has no qualms about going back to work.
“I look to my job as a registered nurse to find perspective often,” said Courtney. “It’s nice to go back into work and get my feet back on the ground.”