Tucker Murphy recently made history as the first Bermudian cross-country skier to compete in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

He placed 88th overall in the men's 15 kilometre freestyle race at Whistler Olympic Park in a time of 42 minutes and 39.1 seconds.

Murphy also carried Bermuda's flag during the official opening ceremony at BC Place Stadium - gaining overnight fame for wearing Bermuda shorts during the spectacular curtain raiser.

He qualified for a maiden Olympics competing on the European circuit last Spring.

After the Winter Games conclude the Rhodes Scholar intends to return to competition in Vermont before resuming studies in the U.K. at Oxford University.

Here the Saltus Grammar School graduate speaks more at length about his Olympic experience with Bermuda Sun senior sports reporter Colin Thompson.
Did the Olympic experience meet your expectations?

I was just talking about that with my coach (Martin Bianchi) about the nature of having so many different countries participate and how marvellous it is to get to meet athletes from these countries and hear their history which is unique.





Of all your Olympic experiences so far, which one stands out the most?



The competition itself was wonderful at the end because I shared a wax cabin where we wax our skis that I share with athletes from other countries such as Argentina. There was just a great sense of camaraderie and accomplishment after the race. I have met people from many different countries and forged friendships.

Usually cross-country skiing is such a solitary affair whereby I am just skiing for myself. But here I have had so much support from so many Bermudians and old friends who I haven't heard from in years and so that has also been a highlight for me.



Was the cross-country race course gruelling?



It was a very difficult course. It has extremely steep uphills and sharp turns on the downhills. Trying to have a controlled start coming out of the stadium was the most important and not to blow up on the first hill. That was the most difficult part for me.



Did you get the chance to meet French pairs figure skater Vanessa James who has Bermudian heritage?

I have not had the chance yet because she is in a different village from us. They are down in Vancouver and we are about two and a half hours away in the cross-country ski, bobsled and luge village.



Did you get to see Vanessa James compete?



I didn't have the chance because I was preparing for my race when she was competing. I would've loved to and hopes she comes back to compete for Bermuda. That would be wonderful.



What was the experience like carrying Bermuda's flag during the opening ceremony?

It was an experience like no other I have had in life.



Do you think you have another Winter Games in you?



That's something I have to think about. I am going to wait till this one is over and then talk about it with my coach and make a decision. It could go both ways .... I just have to give it some more thought once I am out of this environment (Vancouver) and back in the real world.



Have you had the opportunity to mingle with some of the world's elite Winter Olympians in Vancouver?

I have definitely met quite a few of the top athletes in my sport who were very friendly. The Bermuda pin is very popular and so I have had a number of athletes in cross-country (skiing), biathlon and even luge come over and ask for the Bermuda pin.

Each country is given about 100 pins that you exchange with other countries and ours has been very popular. I've had a number of people come over and ask me for it and then you begin speaking and interacting with them.



What are your future plans in cross-country skiing?



I am going to keep training as I have a few more races in Vermont and Maine at the end of February and early March.



Do you plan to return to the sport of rowing at some point?



No, but I might do a few triathlons when I get back to university. I have been on the university team for the past two years and I have really enjoyed it.

It's a nice change of pace, it's nice to have three different disciplines and keeps training interesting.



What was the atmosphere like at the Olympic village when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed on the race track?

It was very subdued and I think everyone was trying to honour his memory. When the Georgians walked into the Olympic ceremony they received a standing ovation from the crowd. There is actually a memorial to him at the athletes' dining hall in Vancouver where you can go in and write a message in his memory.



The standard of various race courses and tracks at the Winter Games have come under close scrutiny and in some cases accused of being sub-par. What are your thoughts on this matter?

I have not experienced that. Everything here has been perfect for me from the food to the accommodations to the tracks themselves. I think the venues are some of the best I have ever seen and so I could not be happier with how the Canadians have organized the Olympics. n