On the Sochi beat: How music and sport go hand in hand
People dance to the music before the men's ski halfpipe final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Published Thursday, February 20, 2014 3:19AM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Playing an instrument was never a choice in Roz Groenewoud's family growing up. The only decision was which one.
"I grew up in a pretty musical family," said the freestyle skier. "It was just something that was part of my life, my dad always played guitar, my mom played piano, so I grew up exposed to a lot of different kinds of music, and had appreciation for all of it."
The 24-year-old from Calgary played piano until she was 10, classical flute from 10 to about 15, and then jazz flute for another three years before she injured her arm in a ski crash.
But her love of all types of music is still evident in her eclectic skiing playlist.
The world halfpipe champion, who will compete Thursday at the Sochi Olympics, always skis with music, and each part of her pre-competition ritual has its own set of songs.
Her current go-to band for when she's walking up the ski hill, for example: Florence and the Machine.
"I have a routine of the songs I listen to while still getting ready in the hotel going out for a competition, the songs I listen to walking to the event, putting my boots on. . . ," Groenewoud said.
"Leading up to actually clicking on my skis, I listen to songs for their lyrics, and then as soon as I click on the skis, I'm listening to the music for the beat, for the adrenalin, for that kind of heart-pounding aspect."
Music provides the backdrop for so many winter Olympic events, whether it's the blaring beats of Nirvana and Enrique Eglesias on the slopestyle hill to the classical strains of Vivaldi and Rachmaninoff at figure skating.
Pairs skater Eric Radford, who studied piano at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music, wrote the music that accompanies the short program he and partner Meagan Duhamel skated to in Sochi.
Radford wrote the piece seven years ago after the death of his coach Paul Wirtz.
Athletes use music to remain focused, block out distractions, or get hyped up. The small white earbuds are almost a part of their uniforms.
And their tastes are as varied as their sporting talents.
For two-time Olympic moguls champion Alex Bilodeau, it's "Jubel" by Klingande to pass time, "300 Violin Orchestra" by Jorge Quintero when he's revving up to compete, and The Dirty Heads' "Stand Tall" to relax.
Figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond is a lover of country.
"I'm a big Carrie Underwood fan. Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, all of them, they're amazing. Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert."
Skeleton racer Mellisa Hollingsworth, who also rides rodeo, is a country fan, but will opt for something harder when she's getting ready to compete.
She likes English indie pop band The XX.
"I really like them when I'm first doing my warmup, and then as I get closer to start time, when you need a little more pep in your step," Hollingsworth said.
Long-track speedskater Denny Morrison, a double medallist in Sochi, relies on music to carrry him through his long training sessions.
"Most of my music now is electronic dance music. Laidback Luke, Dog Blood. . .they're all pretty fun bands, and some are more trancy, so if I'm on my bike riding for six hours straight I can just put it on, and I get literally into a trance and ride for hours," Morrison said. "It's a nice way to shut off all thoughts."
Morrison's teammate Mathieu Giroux is into reggae.
"I just bounce when I train," Giroux said. "I really like Matisyahu (who blends traditional Jewish music with reggae, hip-hop and rock)."
Snowboarder Mark McMorris, who won Canada's first medal in Sochi, is into hip-hop and bluegrass.
"If it's bluegrass, it's Deer Tick or Trampled by Turtles. Hip-hop side: The Game, Kendrick Lamar. I'm just really into those genres."
Several dozen of Canada's top athletes went dancing at a Vancouver nightclub when they were there last summer for an Olympic symposium, and argued afterward about which athletes were the best dancers.
"It was a lot of pressure on the figure skaters because everyone thought we knew how to move, and we all know how to dance well," said three-time world champion Patrick Chan, who's a big Justin Timberlake fan. "I guess we do, because we should, because we're figure skaters, but it was a lot of pressure.
"But figure skaters definitely go dancing, I think some of us are pretty good too."
McMorris added with a chuckle: "I've got some moves. I think I am good, but I don't think I am, you know? I don't think other people think I am."