The temperature in West Hollywood crept up into the mid 80s last week, but that didn’t stop 96 of the nation’s top winter Olympians and Paralympians – many toting figure skates, hockey sticks, snowboards and racing skis — from descending on the town.
With nearly ten months to go until the 2018 Winter Olympics kick off in PyeongChang, South Korea, phenoms like figure skater Ashley Wagner, ski racer Lindsey Vonn and snowboarder Shaun White arrived for an event – organized by NBCUniversal and the U.S. Olympic Committee – to do promotional shoots in advance of their competition.
Along the way, they frolicked in the fake snow, communed with puppies, piglets and baby goats, and had their photos snapped on a 2,500-square-foot sound stage, painstakingly decked out to resemble a South Korean mountaintop.
“The Olympics are different because you’re representing something more than yourself,” Olympic gold medalist Vonn, 32, told PEOPLE in between photo shoots.
“You’re representing your country and the world is looking at you to see how you can perform, to see if you can hold up to the pressure and bring home the gold. There’s a lot more that goes into it than just a normal competition.”
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Much of the content from the five-day event – which consisted of 20 different promotional shoots that the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls were hustled to and from – will air months before the Opening Ceremonies as a walkup to the games.
For figure skater Gracie Gold, who won a bronze medal in the team event at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, the Games can’t come soon enough.
“The Olympics are just . . . incredible,” gushes Gold, 21, while pulling off her skates, following her umpteenth photo session of the day. “The whole vibe is different than at any other competition. It’s like a shooting star of greatness.”