There was no mistaking the smell that emanated from a room of the cottage in Les Saisies. It was the aroma of fried potatoes, so dear to the Russian soul. At the stove was Lyubov Egorova, a cross-country skier for the Unified Team who would win three gold medals, more than any other woman at the Games. Egorova, 25, would win golds in the 15-km, the pursuit and the 4 x 5-km relay, and silvers in the 5-km and the 30-km races. "When you have eaten omelets and fish for breakfast every day for two weeks, you can't enjoy it anymore, "she told a visitor. "So we went to the store and bought food, and now we make what we like."
Then she sat on a bed for an interview.
You're pretty isolated, surrounded by snow and fir trees. Do you like it here?
I would love it if the Olympic spirit were more evident in Les Saisies. But I don't feel it. Probably it's because we can't follow the other events. We don't have a television in our room. Our coach [Alexander Grushin] has one in his apartment, but we couldn't afford another one.
Do you have any contact with athletes from other countries?
Not much. I don't know English or French. At school I was taught Dutch, but as a kid you don't care about foreign languages. It's a pity I was so silly when I was young. My husband, Igor [Sysoev], said to me, "If you can't say something, just smile. That will work." He loves my smile.
How does it feel to be the top female gold medal winner at the Olympics?
It feels great, but some time has to pass for me to realize what has happened.
Where did you prepare for the Games?
We spent 12 days in Austria, training at the same altitude as we have here. Before that we were in Norway.