The Olympic Buzz

Well, the Winter Olympics are coming up in two weeks and I am excited. I have always liked watching all the events and remember the time I was in Lake Placid in 1980 to witness it first hand. The village was abuzz with international visitors and athletes. Pin trading, and general feelings of good will ran among all of the folks walking the streets and taking in the events. It was cold and as I waited in line to get the bus into the venues, I saw the Olympic flame in the distance. I was enthralled but the buzz was quickly killed by the guy behind me who said he wanted to sit his a#$ in that flame right about now. In any event, the Olympics are amazing for a spectator but I cannot imagine the thrill of competing as an athlete. I will be headed up to Lake Placid again right before the opening of the games this year in PyeongChang, South Korea. The cool thing about Lake Placid is that they have kept up all of the venues there and continue to host international and national competitions which keep the Olympic buzz alive in the little village tucked away in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.

As an avid skier, I am a student of the game and spend many hours watching the Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Network not only for the results of World Cup ski racing, but to take in the slow motion analysis of the ski racers which translates technique in my brain. I learn by watching and to have the opportunity to DVR the races and watching the analysis is really enjoyable for me. I am a fan and in my wife’s terms, a fan…..atic. I love the winter, skiing, wool hats, snowblowers, snowshoes, sweaters, parkas, wood fires, wood stoves, ice rinks, oh boy, oh boy……… all things about the season and I take in every experience I can during this 4 month period of the year. I actually get depressed when the winter comes to a close. Most of my vacation time is spent on the slopes out west or in the northeast and I can’t get enough of it. I love to ski locally at my beloved Laurel Mountain. Watching ski racing is a bonus for me much to the consternation of my family who think I am off the deep end. But soon, we all will take the time for a couple of weeks to witness the Olympics and even they have to admit, they love watching the races and the pageantry.

Aside from the events themselves, I enjoy the personal stories that NBC shows on its nightly broadcasts. The sacrifice that the athletes make to get to that level of international competition is really compelling and to hear the interviews and see the families and the efforts that they made to support their children’s Olympic dream is pretty fascinating. Nick Paumgarten recently wrote an expose’ in the “New Yorker” called “Confidence Game.” It is perhaps the most insightful analysis of the success of U.S Ski Team phenom Mikaela Shiffrin. Download it and read it because it is great journalism. I will be interested to hear Julia Mancuso’s commentary this year as an NBC analyst. The most highly decorated female Olympic racer of all time just retired and will be part of the broadcast team including another huge figure in the sport of ski racing- Bode Miller. Those interviews, and commentaries will be most interesting as well as all the other similar stories and reports for all of the other events this year. I even love curling. Watch those brushes go!!!

Do yourself a favor even if you are not a winter person. Watch the Olympics- opening ceremonies are on NBC on February 8. The stories and the competitions are really good TV especially seeing how dismal network television is now. This will be a bright spot for your viewing pleasure for the first two weeks of February. It may even inspire you to strap on a pair of skates or skis and try it yourself. And for those of you who are avid skiers, skaters, etc. – your time is here. The every four year focus on something other than football, basketball, and golf. Not that anything is wrong with those( PC – please Pat). But the Olympics are special. Think of me on the Summit Chair at Whiteface and the Cottage in Lake Placid, sipping an IPA getting ready for the Games. Yahoo!!! I am excited. Thanks for reading.

The Will to Win

What is it about the Olympics that glues us to the TV every four years? Is it the pageantry of the opening ceremonies? Is it the personal stories of the athletes that make them compelling in our living rooms? Is it the exotic venues that the IOC selects every four years? Perhaps as ABC once stated, is it ” The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” For me, it is all of the above and I must admit that I am addicted to the Olympics. download

Even though the commentary and interviews might be lacking from the color people at NBC, the stories are what interest me. The personal sacrifice of the athletes to get to this point in their career. The missed social lives, the early morning training and dedication to compete. These are the stories that make me an Olympic fan. Last night I watched the daughter of two friends of mine compete in the women’s freestyle relay. Allison Schmitt was a young girl when she left Pittsburgh due to her father Ralph’s new job with Ford in Michigan. We miss Gail and Ralph at North Park where we all were part of Hot Harry’s North Park Runners. But all of us North Parkers were glued to the set to see the gold medal gleaming from her neck last night at the awards ceremony. Aside from her record of 3 golds, 1 silver, and 1 bronze in the London Games, Allison won her second medal of these Rio games with three other equally talented ladies bringing it home for the US. Impressive to me was the fact that during the presentation ceremony, they all sang the National Anthem. What an inspiring moment and what a picture of dedicated young ladies thrilled with victory and proud of their country. MTZSPDEC77XA8WFS_768x432

Equally impressive to me at the Olympics is the jubilation of the athletes who compete. They might not win a medal but the joy on their faces as they complete their events and the camaraderie between them at the conclusion is exemplary of the Olympic spirit. Edith Thys Morgan, who has a really good blog on ski racing called RacerEX, says it best when she says that when you compete in the Olympics, you are forever an Olympian. She should know, she competed as a US Ski Team member at the Calgary Games. It is akin to the Marines who say, you are a Marine, not a former Marine. You are an Olympian for life. I feel for the folks who were not able to go. My friend Mac Martin who was a national class road cycling competitor was not able to go to Moscow because of the Jimmy Carter boycott. No athlete should be denied their Olympic opportunity because of politics. Sue Haywood was denied at the Athens Games in Women’s Mountain Biking because of a scoring mistake by the governing body of US Cycling. A terrible tragedy that can never be rectified. As an aging weekend warrior athlete, I have so much respect for Olympic caliber athletes because in my own small way, I can appreciate the dedication, the pain and suffering and the joy of competing. The other remarkable thing about the athletes is their normal girl/boy next door attitude during the interviews. They are people just like you and me, as I learned when I met Joan Benoit Samuelson years ago at the Boston Marathon. You could not meet a more unassuming athlete than Joan. Her victory in the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon was indeed impressive but her humble attitude was the most impressive to me. maine-joan-benoit-samuelson

I had the opportunity to attend the Winter Games in Lake Placid back in 1980. I had the good fortune of receiving 900 dollars face value of tickets from my cousin Bill Carroll who worked for Coke at the time. The Durfees and I saw a lot of events that year and as a hopeless romantic, I was impressed with the atmosphere of the Olympics and the beauty of the High Peaks region in the Adirondacks. As we stood in line to get the bus into the village from the parking lot one day, it was wicked cold. But all I could think about was being at the Olympics as I remarked how beautiful the Olympic flame was with the peaks in the background. The guy behind me remarked that he wanted to ” sit his a#$ in that flame right now” and kind of burst my bubble of enjoyment. But we all laughed as we boarded the bus, freezing to death but excited to spend another day at the venues. I saw Eric Heiden win all of his golds in speed skating and noted the Russians who stood in awe of this amazing American athlete resplendent in his gold speed suit. 1081918_10_147x110

So, in the midst of all the political turmoil going on in the country and the world right now, it is relieving to me to be able to turn off the news and tune in to NBC to once again view the events of the Rio Olympics. The world takes a break for two weeks as the athletes and the world come together to celebrate the Olympic spirit. From the march of the refugee team to a standing ovation, to the excellence of our ladies gymnastics team( arguably the best ever), to Melo and his record scoring in men’s basketball without a jaded bone in his body appreciating representing his country, to the closing ceremonies, the Olympics are just so cool. Tune in if you have not already. Thanks for reading.