"Yes, why not?" he replied to the shocked look on my face. I was a promising amateur skier, but by no means the top skier in the country. "Of course, there will be many hard training sessions, and you will cry, but you will improve."
To be sure, there were countless training sessions full of pain and more than a few tears, but in the five years that followed I could always count on being encouraged by Nikolai's amusing stories and sense of humor.
"My friends, they go in the movies, they go in the dance, they go out with girls," he would start. "But I," he would continue, lowering his voice.