Vancouver Olympians back in winter mode

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at TeamUSA.org:

Members of the 2010 U.S. Olympic team dedicated their lives to training and preparing for the Games last February in Vancouver. They rejoiced with their coaches and families after they qualified for the team.

The Opening Ceremony, competition and Closing Ceremony went by in a blur, and then the Olympic Winter Games are over.

The athletes are left with a lot of decisions to make. Should they continue training for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, which will take place in Sochi, Russia? Is it time to retire? Or is it best to take a break for a bit and then come back?

The answers are as individual as the athletes themselves. Here’s a look at what some of the stars of the Vancouver Games are up to now that the winter sports season is back in full swing:

Steve Holcomb, gold medalist, pilot of the “Night Train” bobsled team: Holcomb became one of the biggest stars of the Vancouver Games, thanks to his easy-going personality and passion for his sport — not to mention leading “Night Train” to Team USA’s first four-man bobsled gold medal since 1948.

Holcomb has been busy, enjoying life in many ways. He has appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” getting to read the show’s signature “Top 10 List.” He’s thrown out first pitches at a Cleveland Indians game and at a San Francisco Giants game. Holcomb played golf with colorful former NBA star Charles Barkley. He flew around a NASCAR racetrack, getting to experience a different type of speed and banking than bobsled.

Getting back to training, and real life, has required a bit of adjustment for Holcomb. He’s looking toward competing in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, wanting to defend his team’s gold medal.

“It seems like things moved very fast but now it’s so slow,” Holcomb, 30, said in a telephone interview during a training break in Lake Placid, N.Y. “I’m realizing that high is not going to come back for three and a half more years and right now it seems like three and a half years is forever.”

Bobsled and skeleton teams open their World Cup season at the 2010 Olympic track in Whistler, British Columbia, on Nov. 22-28.

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USOC study: US Olympic athletes project best image

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at USAToday.com:

The U.S. Olympic Committee has released a study showing Olympic athletes most positively represent the U.S., followed by Major League Baseball players.
The USOC released the poll Tuesday, saying the numbers prove the federation’s sponsors get good value for their money.

The survey, conducted by a research partner of the USOC’s, was conducted in April, less than two months after America’s record-setting performance of 37 medals for a Winter Olympics at the Vancouver Games.

One of the questions asked to more than 3,000 respondents was which athletes most positively represent the United States to the world: 90 percent said USOC athletes.

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The Night Train Bobsled arrives at Utah Olympic Park

Driving the bobsled nicknamed Night Train, USA-1 pilot Steve Holcomb of Park City, Utah along with his team captured the gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada for the first US win in 62 years. The Night Train bobsled with state-of-the art engineering was designed and built by Bob Cuneo as part of the non-profit Bo-Dyn Project, founded by former NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine.

In response to the great interest in the Night Train, Utah Olympic Park Track Manager, David Dinger, had a four-man bobsled designed to replicate that of the original Olympic Gold Medal sled so guests at Utah Olympic Park can have the opportunity to see, touch, hop-in and take photos.

The USA-1 victory also sparked a demand for merchandise with the Night Train logo. To meet the desire of sporting this unique design, Utah Olympic Park gift shop has stocked up on Night Train t-shirts, hoodies, baseball hats, and beanies. Night Train whistles are on the way. Proceeds from all merchandise sold at Utah Olympic Park will benefit athlete development programs and proceeds from Night Train merchandise also goes toward the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project in the construction of sleds for members of the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

In addition, the success of the US Bobsled and Skeleton teams has drawn increased attention to the sports. Pat Brown, Utah Olympic Park Bobsled and Skeleton Head Coach, said “”The season after an Olympics is always a rebuilding year. This is the best time for athletes to get involved in the sport. The odds for making the U.S. National Team are much higher. The first step to making the team is participation in a free skills evaluation session. Based on the evaluation, you may invited to participate in the U.S. National Team Trials in September 2010.”

Unlike many sports, bobsled and skeleton athletes are able to start at an older age and progress fairly quickly to a highly competitive level. Athletes who are 14 years or older have the opportunity to try their skills at sprinting, jumping and lifting to see if bobsled or skeleton would be a good fit for them. Times scheduled for this free opportunity are July 17 at Park City High School in Park City, Utah at 9 a.m. and August 21 and September 18 at Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah at 9 a.m. A camp is also scheduled for 18 – 26 year olds who are interested in learning more about the sport s. More information about these programs can be found at http://www.olyparks.com , email pat.brown@olyparks.com or by calling (435) 658-4252.

A behind-the-scenes look at Shaun White learning his Double McTwist

Catching up with Vancouver Olympians

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at TeamUSA.org:

Vancouver Olympians aren’t sipping Mai Tais on the veranda. Well, maybe they are. But several of the medalists are participating in everything from golf tournaments to poker championships.

Bode Miller is at a golf course near Hartford, Connecticut, today competing in the Travelers Celebrity Pro-Am golf tournament. Held prior to the competition rounds of the Travelers Championship, a PGA Tour event, the Travelers Celebrity Pro-Am brings Hollywood personalities and sports legends together for a round on the links. Bode will tee up with fellow celebrities such as singer/songwriter Michael Bolton, actor Joe Pesci, New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, two-time Olympic gold medal gymnast Shannon Miller, and former New England Patriots Quarterback Doug Flutie.

Will the Olympic gold medal skier fare better on the fairway than he did on the tennis court earlier this month (at a U.S. Open qualifier)?

And who knew Kelly Clark played golf? On July 12, the Olympic snowboarding gold and bronze medalist will host a golf tournament to raise money for her foundation. The Kelly Clark Foundation Golf Tourney will be held at the Mount Snow Golf Course in Dover, Vermont. It’s a four-person best-ball scramble with a dinner and awards banquet to follow.

The Kelly Clark Foundation provides kids with the resources and opportunities to attend mountain schools and pursue their dreams in snowboarding.

At the end of August, Bode will host his own tennis and golf fundraiser. BodeBash10, Aug. 21-22 at Miller’s family’s tennis camp in Easton, New Hampshire, is a tennis and golf event that raises money for the Turtle Ridge Foundation, which supports progressive environmental initiatives and youth athletic opportunities.

In another sort of competition, Vancouver triple medalist and three-time overall World Cup alpine skiing champion Lindsey Vonn is in the running for the 2010 Female Athlete Teen Choice Award.

Vonn, who is currently in Austria for a three-week dryland training block, urged her vans to vote with a Facebook status update: “Ok, I need your help. I found out I am nominated for a Teen Choice Award under the category ‘Choice Female Athlete.’ It only takes a sec. If you vote maybe we have a shot at winning this thing! Oh and you can vote more than once.”

Her competition in the Female Athlete category is Candice Parker (basketball), Serena Williams (tennis), Danica Patrick (racecar) and Misty May Treanor (beach volleyball).

Winners will receive surfboards, which is something that double silver medalist Julia Mancuso could use. Mancuso lives in Maui. Except she is on her way to London today to see a friend and catch some tennis at Wimbledon. Maybe she will make it in time to see the marathon Isner-Mahut match, currently at 52 games a piece in the fifth set.

Shaun White, Hannah Teter, and injured snowboarder Kevin Pearce were also nominated for the Teen Choice Awards.
Voting is open now at http://www.teenchoiceawards.com and fans can vote once per day, everyday, until the Aug. 9 show at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

White was slated to compete in Boston, Massachusetts, this weekend. Not in snowboarding but in skateboarding. The two-time Olympic gold medalist was scheduled to compete in the Skate Open ISF Skateboarding World Championships, the first event of the five-stop Dew Tour 2010, at Boston’s TD Garden. But The New York Times reported that he injured his left ankle while training. Rather than riding the pipe on wheels, he will be in NBC’s broadcast booth.

Almost as wild, Billy Demong is competing in a head-to-head rollerski sprint down The Strip in Las Vegas on July 5. Or so he told me. Demong said that a Norwegian TV station is sponsoring the event, and it will feature Norwegian cross-country-ski phenom Petter Northug, who won four medals at the Vancouver Olympics including gold in the men’s 50km and team sprint. The head-to-head rollerski race leads up to the World Series of Poker championship that starts July 5.

Northug is playing poker, or so claims Demong. But the American Nordic combined champion is not. He will hit the jackpot the following weekend when he weds Katie Koczynski, whom he proposed to the night he won his gold medal in Whistler.

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A dream assignment: For an Olympic fanatic, volunteering at Vancouver games unforgettable

The following is an excerpt from an article published at TheChronicleHerald.ca:

I was wearing my “Smurf jacket” while standing in line at Canada Northern House at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics when the man behind me, recognizing the distinctive blue, thanked me profusely for being a volunteer.

That surprised me because I felt I should be the one saying thank you.

Because being part of the 21st Olympic Winter Games was the experience of a lifetime for me and 25,000 other volunteers from across the country and overseas.

Smurf suits will be welcome when Nova Scotians who were volunteers and staff members at the Olympics gather for a reunion on Monday at 5 p.m. at Boston Pizza on Chain Lake Drive in Halifax.

A lifelong Olympic junkie, I applied online to be a volunteer in May 2009, along with 70,000 others. An orientation session, brief interview and RCMP background check at the Nova Scotia Community College had me dreaming of the Olympic rings.

I had all but given up when I received a phone call on New Year’s Eve inviting me to be part of the press operations team at the Pacific Coliseum where the figure skating and short track speed skating competitions were to be held — a dream assignment for a figure skating fanatic.

As a volunteer, I was required to be available for 15 10-hour shifts over a three-week period, to pay my own way to Vancouver and supply my own accommodation. Fortunately, my mother lives in downtown Vancouver.

On my way to and from her condominium to the bus stop each day, I was able to take in the carnival atmosphere on Robson Street, bustling with entertainment, a live CTV broadcast and excited red-and-white clad people — hugging, cheering and waving flags.

Volunteers received the jackets emblazoned with the Olympic rings, a fleece vest, two long-sleeved shirts, and a tuque, all in bright turquoise, as well as a pair of navy pants. Our accreditation passes enabled us to ride Vancouver buses for free. We got one hearty meal per shift, plus snacks. And every three shifts we got a prize: collectible pins, stuffed mascots, scarves, a silver keychain from Birks and a special Swatch watch.

But mostly we got memories. One Herald colleague, reading my Facebook updates, dubbed me the Forrest Gump of the Olympics for my many gold-medal moments.

Our press operations team of 21 included two supervisors from Switzerland and one from just outside Vancouver.

Volunteers, who ranged in age from 20-something students to retirees and from all walks of life, came from B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia. The Bluenose contingent included me, Kathleen Martin of Halifax, and Keith and Anne Matheson of Pictou, who also worked at the Calgary Olympics. A frequent visitor at Pacific Coliseum was former Herald entertainment editor Greg Guy who was working as a figure skating reporter for the Olympic news service.

Press operations volunteers staffed three areas: the help desk, where we answered questions for some of the more than 500 accredited print media from around the world; the mixed zone where reporters interviewed skaters, and the press tribune — tables erected in the stands with Internet connections where reporters watched events and filed stories.

I was fortunate to be working in the stands for the pairs long program, won by sentimental favourites Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao of China. I escorted the Chinese pairs gold medallists from the dressing room to the post-competition press conference — close enough to touch the heavy medals, though I did not dare.

I saw the ladies free program in which Canada’s Joannie Rochette claimed bronze with an inspirational skate, and the final night of short track where the Canadian men’s relay team claimed gold in a close, tense race where the cheers drowned out the announcers.

Canadian skaters Charles Hamelin and Francois-Louis Tremblay took gold and bronze respectively in the 500-metre race in which a chain spill saw Hamelin spin and cross the line backwards, Tremblay get knocked off his feet, hit the pads and recover, and U.S. star Apolo Anton Ohno get disqualified

One day on the early shift, which began at 6 a.m., assisting reporters covering practices, I was thrilled to be given a ticket to watch Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s flawless ice dance free skate that earned gold for Canada.

I was right at ice level for practices, so close that I had to jump back because I feared I would be hit in the head by the whizzing skate blade of Czech skater Michal Brezina doing a triple Axel too close to the boards, and so near I could feel the wind on my face as the short track skaters whipped round and round.

And after competitions ended at the Pacific Coliseum, I watched the gala skating exhibition from the media seats, pretended to be interviewed in the kiss-and-cry zone and raised my hands above my head on top of the podium.

On non-volunteer days, I visited a friend in Whistler where we celebrated right at the finish line as Jon Montgomery won skeleton gold, perhaps the happiest Canadian medal winner of all, and attended the dazzling opening ceremonies that made me proud to be a Canadian.

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Gold Medal Doesn’t Equal Mega Bucks for Canada’s Olympians

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at TSN.ca:

Alexandre Bilodeau may have won the hearts of Canadians at the 2010 Olympics, but his gold medal in moguls isn’t likely to make him a multi-millionaire.

A comfortable living and perhaps a small nest egg upon retirement are the best financial rewards Canadian gold medallists can hope for in the wake of the Vancouver Games.

If you take hockey player Sidney Crosby out of the equation — because comparing his earning power to other Canadian Olympians is an apples-and-oranges proposition — Bilodeau could be the top earner from the Canadian crop of gold medallists in Vancouver.

“Some people say it could reach between $200,000 and $500,000 (annually), but I think that’s a little bit optimistic,” says University of Laval sports marketing professor Andre Richelieu. “I would say $200,000 or $250,000 in Canada for Alexandre Bilodeau would be a good number.”

The moment when Bilodeau won Canada’s first Olympic gold medal on home soil will be stamped in the minds of Canadians for years to come, which gives the Rosemere, Que., native staying power and a broad reach in the minds of marketers.

Bilodeau is in a sport that thousands of Canadians do every winter. It’s also a sport that has several competing gear manufacturers who would like to attach Bilodeau to their brand.

Bilodeau also comes from a province that is aligning itself to bid for the Winter Olympics of 2022 or 2026, so expect him to be front and centre during that campaign.

But Bilodeau himself doesn’t know what his financial outlook is or his sport future for that matter. He’s committed to competing another season but hasn’t decided yet if he’ll continue to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. That decision could factor into his earning power.

“I’m not doing skiing for finance,” Bilodeau says. “I ski for fun and for my passion. If I make money on the side for my studies and after that, it’s a bonus.

“If you don’t play hockey, men’s, and if you don’t do the 100 metres and you win, I don’t think anyone can be a millionaire competing as an amateur athlete.”

Actually you can, if you are American.

Forbes magazine did not include one Canadian on its list of the top-10 money-earning athletes from the 2010 Winter Olympics. American snowboarder Shaun White and South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-Na were tied at the top with an estimated US$8 million in earnings.

The list, heavy with American snowboarders, included skier Lindsey Vonn at (US$3 million) at No. 3, short-track speedskater Apollo Anton Ohno (US$1.5 million) at No. 5 and German skier Maria Riesch (US$1 million) at No. 10.

There is a ceiling on what Canada’s Olympic champions earn that doesn’t exist in the U.S. The American culture of athlete adulation and a consumer market 10 times bigger than Canada’s are the main factors in White’s ability to become a multi-millionaire.

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Winter Athletes Reunite, Meet President Obama

The following is an excerpt from an article published at TeamUSA.org:

As a member of the Swedish Olympic team in 1994 and 1998, Bengt Walden got a chance to meet the King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf.

On Wednesday, Walden, who became an American citizen in October and represented the United States at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games in luge, will be among more than 200 Olympians and Paralympians who will meet President Barack Obama and tour the White House.

Which is bigger, a brush with royalty or meeting the president of the United States?

“I think this is pretty big,’’ Walden said. “I mean, this is Obama, right?’’

The anticipation of the White House tour was high Tuesday night as many of the Olympians and Paralympians who competed in Vancouver and Whistler gathered at a reception held, appropriately, at the Sports Legends Museum in downtown Baltimore.

Ralph Green, a Paralympic alpine skier, said he couldn’t wait to meet the president, noting that his 90-year-old grandmother in Orlando was envious of his opportunity.

And then there was Olympic ice dancer Evan Bates, who was excited about getting two chances to see the president in less than a month. In addition to his visit to the White House on Wednesday, Bates is lucky enough to have scored tickets to the University of Michigan’s graduation ceremonies, where Obama will be the commencement speaker on May 1. Bates lives in Ann Arbor, Mich., and is a student at Michigan.

As U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun told the athletes, “Tomorrow is going to be a great opportunity, an awe-inspiring opportunity.’’

As excited as the athletes were about the White House visit, they also seemed genuinely excited to be reunited with each other as well. Many of the athletes had not seen each other since they had competed in the Olympic or Paralympic Games back in February and March. Some of them, like Olympic bobsled gold medalist Steve Holcomb, barely have had time to visit their own homes let alone hang out with fellow athletes. Holcomb said he’s having a hard enough time getting his new puppy trained.

During the reception, however, ice dancers were seen mingling with snowboarders and mogul skiers were hanging out with hockey players. And then there were some who thought Olympic luge athlete Julia Clukey was Lindsey Vonn. In fact, just as Clukey was telling a reporter that several people had mistaken her for the alpine skier, someone walked up and asked if she was indeed Vonn.

“See what I mean?’’ Clukey said.

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Park City brings Games back home: Local Olympians and Paralympians parade down Main

The following is an excerpt from an article published at ParkRecord.com:

On a bleak Tuesday afternoon with frosty winds whipping through Main Street, Park City residents showed where their priorities lie by lining the streets at a parade for Utah’s 2010 Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

“It’s always great to see the community out to honor the Olympians, because I just remember the 2002 Olympics, and being with this group again brings back memories,” said Park City resident Lola Beatlebrox.

“The last time it was like this was July 4th,” she said.

Beginning as advertised at 5:30 p.m. sharp, local junior athletes trod behind a convoy of international stars while viewers took part in the traditional parade fare – waving, screaming and snapping photos.

There were no floats, as athletes rode in a cavalcade of SUVs and pickup trucks. 2010 World Cup super G title winner Ted Ligety led off and quickly heeded one photographer’s cry to “Start waving!”

Paralympic sled hockey gold medalist Greg Shaw joined fellow Park City resident and Closing Ceremony flag-bearer Monte Meier in an SUV adorned with posters and paint, while recently retired bronze medalist Shannon Bahrke shared a truck bed with Heather McPhie, bronze medalist Bryon Wilson and Nate Roberts.

“It was a nice surprise,” said New York’s Bob Ingersoll, a winter sports fan on vacation in Park City. “Ted Ligety and Shannon Bahrke – that made my day. I watched those guys during the Olympics.”

Nordic combined medalists Brett Camerota and Billy Demong nearly tumbled on top of each other as their truck
accelerated quickly at the top of Main Street, giving their audience a laugh.

Camerota was on a post-Olympic vacation in Thailand when he found out about the parade and rushed home.

“I really wanted to get away a little bit, but once I found out about the parade in Park City, I definitely made sure I made it back,” Camerota said. “These programs are pretty much the reason I have a medal, so I wanted to show all the kids
that these programs are a lot of fun and they actually do work.”

Aerialists Lacey Schnoor and Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, and speedskaters Travis Jayner, Rebeckah Bradford, Tucker Fredericks and Catherine Raney Norman were also among the 24 athletes on hand.

The School of Rock Show Band played while athletes signed autographs for hoards of fans young and old alike at the Town Lift Plaza.

“We have a lot of pride,” said City Manager Tom Bakaly at a Park City Rotary Club meeting on Tuesday afternoon before the parade. “We love being able to pull together, especially with the ski team taking the lead (in medals).”

Bakaly said Park City’s variety of elite training facilities – like the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Center of Excellence – not only benefit Utah’s medal count, but local businesses.

“Every time Park City gets mentioned, that’s good on a lot of levels,” Bakaly said. “But on an economic level, it’s very important to us.”

Billy Demong, who first moved to Park City to train with his teammates and is originally from Vermontville, N.Y., said the work done by the city has made it feel like home.

“The town has really grown on me over the years,” Demong said. “At the beginning, it was a means to an end, but it’s been really cool to watch the community develop.”

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Something in the water in Utah breeds great Olympic athletes

Looking Back: Vancouver 2010 Winter Games Athlete Medals

The following was originally published at www.vancouver2010.com:

As unique as the world’s top athletes, every medal won at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will be a one-of-a-kind work of art — a first in Games history. They are among the heaviest medals in Olympic and Paralympic history, weighing between 500 grams and 576 g.

The stories and dreams of Olympic and Paralympic athletes helped shape the medals, produced by the Royal Canadian Mint with metals supplied by Canadian mining and metals giant Teck Resources Limited. Their dramatic form was inspired by ocean waves, drifting snow and the mountainous landscapes found in the Games region and across Canada.

The Vancouver 2010 medals are based on two large master artworks of an orca whale (Olympic) and raven (Paralympic) by Corrine Hunt, a Canadian designer/artist of Komoyue and Tlingit heritage based in Vancouver, BC. Canadian industrial designer and architect Omer Arbel, also of Vancouver, used his extensive knowledge of materials and fabrication processes to create the innovative undulating design of the medals, which are struck nine times each to achieve the distinctive look as part of the 30-step medal fabrication process. Each medal has a unique, hand-cropped section of the art, making it a one-of-a-kind treasure. A silk scarf printed with the master artwork will be presented to each medallist along with their medal, enabling them to see how their medal connects with those awarded to other athletes at the Games to make the whole design.

On the reverse side, the medals contain the official names of the Games in English and French, as well as Vancouver 2010’s distinctive emblems, and the name of the sport and event the medal was awarded in. On the Paralympic medals, braille is also used. The Games motto With Glowing Hearts/Des plus brillants exploits is written in white lettering on the medals’ blue and green ribbon.

The Royal Canadian Mint will produce 615 Olympic and 399 Paralympic medals at their headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, for the 2010 Winter Games. The materials used to produce the medals consist of 2.05 kilograms of gold, 1,950 kilograms of silver and 903 kilograms of copper.

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Going Green: Vancouver Olympic Medals
Vancouver Olympic Medals Introduced to Public