Derek Parra: 9/11 inspired his 2002 medal haul in Salt Lake City

The following is an article posted on Tucsoncitizen.com by USA TODAY:

Sept. 11 initially blunted long-track speedskater Derek Parra’s Olympic aspirations.

“I was like, ‘Why am I skating around in circles when people are pulling loved ones out of the rubble at Ground Zero?’ ” he says.

“I felt useless. It was like, ‘Why am I doing this — it’s selfish.’ I contemplated not continuing to skate. It was the first time in my life I can remember being sad and depressed.”

Yet in the end, he says, Sept. 11 helped inspire him to become the first Mexican-American to win Winter Olympic gold in the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

Sept. 11, 2001, Parra was preparing for the Games, living and training in Utah and working part time at The Home Depot.

When he told co-workers of his thoughts about quitting, he says, “They were the ones that were getting behind me, saying, ‘You’ve got to do this; you’ve got to show these people they can’t take that away from us. Go out there and win the gold, do your best.’

“That’s when my focus leading into those Games became not about medals. It was about giving the families of the victims from 9/11, especially in our country, something to cheer about.”

He was scheduled to skate in the grueling 5,000-meter race on the first full day of competition. But when the invitation came to be one of eight U.S. athletes to carry the World Trade Center flag into the opening ceremony the night before, he accepted instead of resting.

The International Olympic Committee at first resisted the plan to include the tattered flag in the opening ceremony, not wanting to promote political or nationalistic displays. But after an outcry, the IOC agreed to have the flag — which also had been displayed at the World Series and Super Bowl— brought in as the U.S. national anthem was playing.

“That definitely inspired me. It touched me spiritually and emotionally,” Parra says.

The next day, he set a world record in the 5,000 meters — 15 seconds better than his personal best — en route to winning a surprise silver. Ten days later, he won 1,500-meter gold, setting an Olympic record.

The patriotism roused by Sept. 11, he says, helped propel him and the U.S. team overall to a record performance in 2002. U.S. athletes won 34 medals in Salt Lake City, nearly tripling the USA’s previous Winter Olympic best (13 medals in the 1998 and 1994 Games).

“There was something that was driving us,” he says. “Everybody was out there with us. We weren’t alone is why I think we had such a great Games.”

Learning of Osama bin Laden’s death Sunday brought Parra, a U.S. speedskating coach in 2010 and the youth outreach director for the Utah Athletic Foundation, memories from the 2002 Games and a sense of contentment.

“I think the world is a better place without someone like that in it,” he says.

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U.S. Ski Jumping Championships

Women’s ski jumping event added to 2014 Sochi Games

Below is an article on the Women’s Ski Jumping USA website:

Women’s ski jumping event added to 2014 Sochi Games

Lindsey Van Ski Jump

LONDON, April 6, 2011 — For the first time in Olympic Winter Games history, women will participate in ski jumping, beginning in Sochi, Russia in 2014.

The International Olympic Committee made the announcement today during the IOC Executive Board’s press conference in London, site of the 2012 Summer Games.

Lindsey Van and Deedee Corradini react to IOC announcement.“We are elated and relieved,” said Deedee Corradini, Women’s Ski Jumping USA president. “Sochi, Russia can proudly proclaim that it will be hosting the first gender-equal Winter Games in Olympic history.” Ski jumping (and Nordic Combined) were the only disciplines in the Winter Games that did not allow women to participate.

In October 2010, the IOC EB said it was “looking favorably” at adding women’s ski jumping to Sochi 2014, but said it needed more time to consider the outcome of the sport’s 2011 World Championships in Oslo in February. In grueling weather conditions and in front of nearly 10,000 spectators, 43 athletes from 15 nations competed in Oslo compared to 36 athletes from 13 nations in Liberec, Czech Republic in 2009. Five of the top six finishers in Oslo were from different countries and ranged in age from 27 to 14.

IOC senior members Gunilla Lindberg and Gerhard Heiberg, a winter sports expert, both publically praised the women’s event in Oslo — a positive pre-cursor to today’s announcement.

Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s Sports Director, said Wednesday the main reason a women’s event  was approved for Sochi 2014 is the increase in quality and depth in women’s ski jumping from the  2009 World Championships to the 2011 Worlds.

The International Ski Federation had recommended twice to the IOC to include women’s ski jumping in Sochi; three World Championships will have taken place before 2014; and a new World Cup circuit starts in 2011/2012.

“I am thrilled the IOC decided to add our sport. Personally, this means a lot to me. I started ski jumping when there were no international women’s competitions,” said 26-year-old Lindsey Van, the 2009 World Champion. “Women’s ski jumping has been growing over the past 10 years, but inclusion in the Olympics is what our sport needed to take the next step. 

“We’ve worked really hard as athletes fighting for our sport, so this feels like a big success,” Van said.

Participation in women’s ski jumping continues to increase worldwide. Since 2006, when the IOC turned down a women’s ski jumping event for 2010, at least three more countries have women ski jumpers competing at the elite level including Romania, Russia and China. In that same year, 83 women from 14 nations were registered to compete on the FIS Continental Cup and in 2010, those numbers increased to 182 women from 18 nations.

“It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. To have it accepted feels amazing,” said veteran U.S. jumper Jessica Jerome, who finished sixth overall this season. “This decision gives our sport more validity in the sense that it can only keep growing from here.”

 

Women’s Nordic Ski Jumping Added to The Olympics

After a long battle, Women’s Nordic Ski Jumping has finally made it in the Olympic Winter Games!

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The announcement was made early this morning. A press conference is being held at the Utah Olympic Park to celebrate the announcement.

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Will Women’s Ski Jumping make it to the Olympics?

Below is an article posted on Reuters.com :

Olympics-Women’s ski jumping set for Sochi, says FIS head

The long-awaited approval of women’s ski jumping for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics now looks a formality, ski federation head Gian Franco Kasper said on Tuesday.

“The ladies ski jumping has become a purely political question,” the International Ski Federation (FIS) president told Reuters at the Sportaccord Convention where the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is also meeting to decide on new events.

“But I think that is rather a formality. With the others, I really do not know.”

Apart from ski jumping, other events up for consideration include ski halfpipe (men and women), ski slopestyle (men and women), snowboard slopestyle (men and women), biathlon mixed team relay, the figure skating team event and luge team relay.

The IOC’s powerful executive board is expected to announce a decision on most of the events on Wednesday after postponing a ruling late last year, with IOC president Jacques Rogge saying some may need to be monitored a little longer.

Kasper said an Alpine team event and the women’s ski jumping were the priorities for his governing body.

“We will see what comes out. I am quite sure that they will accept all the events, not only from skiing but also luge and the team event in skating and biathlon,” said the Swiss IOC member.

“Sochi has a little different list to what the IOC has or that we have because they want to have only those new events where they have a certain medal chance,” said Kasper.

Women’s ski jumping tried to win a place in last year’s Vancouver Games but was rejected on the grounds that performance levels were not good enough and too few nations and athletes were involved.

“It has improved since then, no question,” said Kasper.

“We have now more athletes and increased the level of performance so I believe they are ready now. But it is a political question for the IOC. That’s why I am very sure they will accept it.

“I think that’s more a formality, on condition that the Russians agree of course.”

If women’s ski jumping is given the go-ahead, the nordic combined event — which mixes cross country skiing and ski jumping — will be the only one at the Winter Games without any female competitors.

2011 Ski Meister

Everyone had a great time at the Ski Meister last Saturday. The competitors raced through a course of skier/boarder cross, moguls, jumps, and finished off by skimming across a pond!

Here are some photos of the event.

Ken Garff Keys to Success Winter Comet Ride

Below is an article posted on the Standard-Examiner about our Winter Comet Bobsled Ride:

Comet Bobsled

Olympic spirit rallies with speedy trip around bobsled track

Some kids get allowances, others are paid for their grades. Most of the time, I fall in neither category.

However, thanks to the Ken Garff Keys to Success program, I recently got to do something that more than compensated for all the lost years of free cash — winter bobsledding at the Utah Olympic Park.

The auto company’s program helps motivate and acknowledge high school students in their academic achievements. When I received a Keys to Success prize from one of my teachers, I carefully evaluated all the possibilities, wary of wasting my reward. The opportunity to whiz down a frozen track on a bobsled was appealing so I happily chose that.

After waiting months to take advantage of my prize, I finally got to experience the same feeling as an Olympian. I had butterflies as my dad and I drove up to Park City for my ride.

As we waited for orientation, we walked around the George Eccles Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum. Looking at the exhibits brought back cherished memories of watching the Olympics as a little kid. When I picked up a 40-pound curling stone, it was fun to remember being a second-grader and eating Chex Mix as a friend and I watched a curling match with my parents.

It was fascinating to see the artifacts from the opening and closing ceremonies and to picture the grandeur of the vivid performance all over again. The gleaming medals in the display case returned all the yearning of wanting my favorite athletes to win and the inspiration I felt as the national anthem was played. Feeling the Olympic spirit again added to the anticipation of my bobsled ride.

At orientation, the instructors told us about the procedures required when riding and what we could expect to happen. Everyone had to sign a contract stating that they understood they could be injured or even killed on their bobsled ride. Now, my excitement level started to do a nose dive toward China. The prospect of safely flying down the track sounded phenomenal but the thought of skidding down as a crumpled lump near a capsized sled sounded horrifying. I tried thinking that if many people died the sport wouldn’t be allowed, which helped me muster up a little extra courage to continue.

We loaded on a bus and headed to the top of the track. There we fit our helmets and anxiously waited in our bobsled teams for our turn. My team consisted of the driver, two men and myself. The men were from out of state and already knew each other. They were constantly teasing and talking about how our team was going to be the fastest. It added entertainment and a positive atmosphere to the wait.

Finally it was Team 6’s turn! My heart was pounding as I put on my snug red helmet and filed into the white bobsled. The park staff helped situate us in the correct positions, and I grinned as the sled slowly started to rumble down the chilly track. In an instant the sled was speeding down the course and zipping around the curves with tremendous force. I was instantly breathless! Everything was a blur as the sled whipped us around corner after corner, knocking my helmet into the sides of the sled.

And in the blink of an eye the ride was over. We had streaked down the track in less than one minute, going almost 80 miles per hour with five G forces pushing on our bodies. The feeling was exhilarating — and it was a relief to know I was still alive! A few minutes after the ride ended my head started to pound and my stomach lurched into my throat. Maybe it was because the sled had gone so fast that my body had barely caught up. All I could think about after the ride was how cool it was and how indescribable it felt.

The momentary rattle of the sled, the whistle of the whipping wind, and the instant blur of the world was worth every hour of sleep I lost doing homework and every penny I was never paid. It was a feeling I’ve never had before. It was a rush of emotion and senses that no other recipe could concoct.

I recommend a bobsled ride to every thrill-seeking adventurer out there. Put it on your bucket list and have the most dazzling ride of your life!

Our UOP Candy Basket on KPCW Radio

Our employee candy basket is featured on KPCW Radio‘s Tales From The Wasatch Back – http://t.co/8FzkDU1.

UOP Candy Basket

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The Night Train Visits Whole Foods

The Night Train Bobsled hung out at Whole Foods Market Park City last weekend in support of their Whole Planet Foundation fundraiser day on Saturday.

Did you visit Whole Foods this weekend and snap a pic in the bobsled?

Two-time Olympic skeleton racer Bernotas retires

Below is an article posted on universalsports.com

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Photo Credit: Associated Press

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Two-time U.S. Olympian Eric Bernotas has retired from skeleton, ending a 10-year racing career.

Bernotas found the sport by accident in 2001, getting lost on a drive through the Adirondacks and ending up at the Olympic Sliding Complex near Lake Placid. He became a full-time slider shortly afterward.

He retires with 12 World Cup medals, a silver medal from the 2007 world championships, four U.S. national crowns and Olympic appearances in 2006 and 2010.

The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation announced his retirement Saturday.