Tyler Jewell talks about financing an Olympic career

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

Tyler Jewell has competed in two Olympic Winter Games. He has notched 14 top-10 World Cup finishes. He has been feted at the White House. And now the snowboarder is ramping up his training again in hopes of competing again for the United States at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Yet there are times when he doesn’t feel like such a superstar athlete.

Once, during a trip to New York City to try to secure sponsorship, his sister-in-law asked him to do a favor and have lunch with a young kid and talk about the Olympic experience.

“In the end,’’ Jewell said with a laugh, “he wanted to give me his allowance.’’

Jewell turned down the kid’s offer, but hasn’t turned his back on his Olympic dream — even though it has meant living on the cheap. Currently, he is in Chula Vista, Calif., where he is living at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. There, courtesy of the USOC, he lives rent free, eats for free and trains among other Olympians. He will have this opportunity for nine weeks. In addition, he receives a stipend from the United States Ski and Snowboard Association.

At the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Jewell said everyone has been encouraging. From the people who work in the gym, to the cooks, to the staff members who shuttle athletes to and from the airport and clean the athletes’ rooms, Jewell said he feels the support. Even a gesture as simple as a hug has been appreciated by Jewell. It serves as a daily reminder of what his bigger picture is all about.

“I am super grateful to be here,’’ said Jewell, 33. “It really feels like family here.’’

Even over the Fourth of July weekend, Jewell spent time hanging out with other Olympians. He and a group of kayakers went out to watch the fireworks.

It isn’t easy to finance an Olympic career, and being at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Jewell knows he is not alone. Yet he remains an optimist.

“Somehow,’’ he said, “I’ve learned how not to panic.’’

A graduate of Boston College and the son of a vascular surgeon, one might assume that he wouldn’t have many financial woes. But while his family has been a source of emotional support — Jewell’s parents, three brothers, uncles and aunts all were cheering him on during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games — his parents made it clear from the get-go that he would be responsible for funding his snowboarding career.

“It’s not like I was ever going to living in a cardboard box on the street,’’ said Jewell, a Boston native. “I could work a normal job, but then I wouldn’t be pursuing my dream to be the best in the world. This is what I want to do.’’

No one ever said it would be easy. Jewell laughs when he recants stories of living in a tent, sleeping on couches, working on a ranch in Nevada and discovering how he could eat cheap meals at hospitals near the slopes.

“You’d be surprised at how much food you could get for $2.50,’’ he said.

He’s even found a gig with a friend who works at a marketing firm for the summer. He travels to New Mexico for the state fair, where he sells juice and sausages.

“It’s probably not healthy for me to be doing that 15 hours a day,’’ he said. “Really, I need to be in the gym and I need to be rested.’’

But it’s the price he pays so he can continue doing what he loves.

Click here to read the entire article.

Photos From The 4th Annual Utah Olympic Park Hill Climb

From BicycleTouringPro.com:

The Park City Hill Climb is an annual event where runners race up a steep and windy 5K course that leads from the Kimball Junction area of Park City to the very top of the Utah Olympic Park. In the process, the participating runners gain nearly 1,000 feet in elevation. The following are some of my photos from this year’s event, which took place on Saturday, May 29th, 2010 (Click here to view all the pictures).

WHAT THEY SAID: ‘Curling parties’ becoming fashionable among teens

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

While the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are long over, summer’s just around the corner, NBC is back to its regular programming, and newspapers worldwide are filled with non-Olympic-related stories once more, one part of this year’s games has yet to fade: curling.

This fairly new sport is rising in popularity across the nation, especially among the younger generation. Apparently to kids (myself included), there’s just something captivating about one guy shoving a giant rock across the ice while some others furiously sweep in front of it. And, you have to admit, it is somewhat humorous and maybe even borderline ridiculous. But that’s what makes it so great.

During and ever since the games in mid-February, talk of curling has been filtering throughout my high school. And, encouraged by the Wii game, DECA Sports, which includes simulated curling, students are even starting to look up local leagues. Though I have yet to come across anyone who’s actually joined, the possibility of having youth curling teams in the future is very real.

Oftentimes, when my friends and I hang out on rainy days, we find ourselves playing Wii. Our favorite game is, by far, Deca Sports. More specifically, we love the simulated curling. In fact, it was this game that first introduced me to curling, far before I knew it was an Olympic sport. These hangouts, which usually involve tons of laughing, joking and friendly competition, have become fondly known among my friends and me as ”curling parties.”

Growing at a rate of 20 percent per year, curling has more than 25,000 competitors across the nation. Globally, there are more than 3 million curlers in 30 countries. Curling began gaining popularity after it became an official Winter Olympic sport in 1998 and hasn’t stopped since.

Click here to read the entire article.

WHAT THEY SAID: It’s all downhill from here

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at stuff.co.nz:

Manly posturing aside, a slide down Utah Olympic Park’s bobsled track is a screaming white 130kmh assault on the senses.

Snowflakes on fir trees and the gentle hiss of our sled’s runners sliding over the first few metres of ice at the top of the world’s fastest bobsled track have lulled me into a state of unreal calm. This bobsled malarkey isn’t half as frightening as our sliding guide Jon Green had warned us in the warm briefing room just minutes ago.

But brace yourself: at the first left hand bend, our four-body fibreglass coffin is wrenched violently on its axis, a grating roar destroys the silence, and crushing forces compress my spine and try to prise my grip from the single wire handholds. We’re 10 seconds into the Utah Olympic Park bobsled track, rocketing towards 130kmh.

We’ve got an interminable minute of inhuman pressure, fear, pain and uncertainty to come, and all I can think about is who will call my next of kin.

Olympic Park in Utah, half an hour out of Salt Lake City and the venue for the first Winter Games of this century (2002), has a spartan, other-worldly feel in the still of dusk. The glass and steel buildings, soaring parabolic curves of the ski jumps and the winding ice tracks of those nutty sliding sports – luge, skeleton and bobsled – are silent and coated in late winter’s snowy blanket.

The park is used summer and winter for state and national competition and training, and has a fascinating three- story ski and Winter Games museum documenting the 2002 event in video and interactive exhibits.

At the safety briefing near the top of the bobsled track on this March evening, the fresh spectre of the Romanian luge pilot’s death on the Whistler track hangs in the air as Green explains the risks of bobsled – spinal injuries, blood pressure surges, bruising and muscular pain and the worst, sled rollover. He confesses that, despite his strapping six-foot (1.83 metres) physique and mountainman’s courage, he won’t be riding again. “It hurts,” he says.

Like most visitors and paying guests at Olympic Park, I’m wearing ski gear and gloves, and the standard issue full- face motorbike helmet. Our “pilot”, Pat Brown, looks like an IndyCar racer in a one-piece jumpsuit and driving boots. The only giveaway about the career choice of this bobsled ace and Olympic sliding coach is the broad-backed belt favoured by weight lifters that will keep his spine from dissembling under the 4-5G pressures of the track’s tightest turns.

Brown coached the Jamaican bobsled team at Calgary (1988), so he’s nominally the inspiration for the John Candy character in the comedy Cool Runnings that taught us, in bobsled, “bones don’t break, they shatter”.

But Brown is more serious about his sport: “Nothing in that movie was true,” he says. And more reassuringly “no-one has died while bobsledding with me”.

It’s only after the fourth blood- draining turn on the 1.3-kilometre track that I remember to take a breath. But any thought of relaxing, preparing for the next curve or adjusting my seat is impossible. I’m riding number two, behind Brown, with a charming Oregon park ranger straddling my back, and her fisheries officer husband straddling hers. We’re sitting on a thin rubber mat, wrists and knees are smacking the sled sides, and although our eyes are open, we can’t see anything even vaguely recognisable.

Click here to read the entire article.

WHAT THEY SAID: A Thrill Ride Down an Icy Chute

The following is an excerpt from a blog published at NYTimes.com:

Speeds topped out at about 35 miles per hour on the Utah Olympic Park luge, skeleton and bobsled course. That is about one-third as fast as Olympian lugers. It was fast enough.

During reporting for an coming story, two of us from The New York Times were invited by USA Luge to steer a sled down the track used for the 2002 Winter Games. While it provided useful perspective for the story (it will run in February, if the suspense is just too much), it also offered a glimpse of what it takes to slide feet-first down an icy, banked chute.

I don’t think I have it.

The first run included a “should-I-have-told-my-wife?” moment of fear when the sled caromed from one side of the track to the other (a heart-racing, speed-killing mistake called “ping-ponging”) in innocuous Turn 13. The second run was smoother until oversteering led into the wall just before the finish. Another jolt of nervousness arrived when we were told that the third run would start higher up the mountain.

After signing ominous waivers of responsibility, Times video journalist Jigar Mehta and I were driven about midway up the nearly 1-mile serpentine track. We joined about a dozen employees of Utah-based USANA, the official nutritional supplement provider to USA Luge. Everyone was fitted with helmets and elbow pads.

Jon Owen, a 1988 Olympian luger and the first one to go down the track when it opened in 1997, provided a quick tutorial. The sleds, much like those used in the Olympics, feature a pair of silver, metal runners that are the key to speed. Riders lay on their backs in a sort of sling between two other supports above the runners. The contraption looks airy and flimsy. It is solid and heavy.
Point your toes downhill, Owen said. Keep your elbows in. Keep your shoulders down and your chin up, just enough to see. To turn, turn your head that direction. To turn more, tilt slightly to that shoulder.

To stop? Good one. There are no brakes. Once started, speed is generally controlled by gravity and how “clean” the run is — how few brushes against the wall and, for pros, how straight the line is through the curves.

We did not want to go over 90 m.ph. or pull 5 Gs, like world-class lugers do. We mostly wanted to survive to tell about it. For a couple of moments, even that seemed in doubt.
Officially, the track has five starting spots, called skeleton start, bobsled start, men’s women’s start and junior start.

Below the junior start is one called “tourist start.” The first two times, we started below that, above Curve 12 of the 15-curve course.

The racing order was announced over the public-address system. A giant scoreboard over Curve 14 showed our names and times. There was a lot of nervous chatter.
One by one, after given the all-clear, we plopped a sled onto the track. Owen offered final words of comfort and advice. Then he let go.

Exhilaration was almost immediate as the sled picked up speed. While it felt fast, it was too slow to force the sled high on the banked turns; the inside wall always seemed too close. But the sleds are surprisingly responsive. Just as Owen predicted, we found ourselves doing less and less “driving” with each run.

Click here to read the entire blog post.

What They Said: Alf Engen Ski Museum

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

Situated in the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center, located at Utah Olympic Park, the Alf Engen Ski Museum is a fantastic experience for the entire family. This highly interactive museum will guide patrons through the past right into the future of winter sports in the area. Visitors can enjoy both self-guided and guided tours of the museum as well as the Olympic competition sites.

At the center of the Alf Engen Ski Museum is the Alf Engen Collection. Consisting of more than 300 medals, trophies, uniforms, skis, equipment, photographs and films, the exhibit honors Utah’s top athlete of the 20th Century.

The Ski History display boasts clips from the films “Ski Aces” and “Margie of the Wasatch”, filmed in the 1940s, as well as “Utah on My Mind”, made in the 1970s. Also of interest is the Ecker Hill display, which will take visitors back to the 1930s when ski jumping records were set and broken. Included in the display is the Ecker Hill Trophy awarded during the FIS International Ski Jumping Competition held at Utah Olympic Park. Rounding off the display is a painting by Anton J. Rasmussen of the Engen brothers and the certificate naming Ecker Hill a Historic Place on the National Register. More history is explored in the display explaining the development of Park City. Also worth seeing is the exhibit about the U.S. Forest Service’s contribution to the development of winter sports, highlighting the start of the Professional Ski Instructors Association.

Throughout the Alf Engen Ski Museum you can learn about the development of skiing and snowboarding. The Alpine Speed experience features interactive race courses, as well as a rotating display of ski equipment dating back to the 1930s. An interactive touch-screen monitor provides insight into popular Intermountain Alpine competitors. At the Board Play display you can view a few early snowboards as well as a video about Dimitrije Milovich. Learn about ski jumping at the “Skiing in the Sky” display, with a video, interactive game, photo slide shows and a display of jumping skis.

Other features of the Alf Engen Ski Museum include a diorama of snow safety rangers, information about avalanches, free style skier videos, the Will and Jean Pickett Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame, the Professional Ski Instructors of America – Intermountain Division Hall of Fame, a presentation about how snow occurs in Utah, a display of photographs by Ray Atkeson, the development of cross country skiing, the Ski Action Theater and a large topographical map of Wasatch.

Click here to read more.

Terror at the Top: 55 seconds in a bobsleigh

Utah Olympic ParkThe following is an excerpt from an article originally posted at ksl.com:

PARK CITY — The world’s best bobsleigh (official Olympic spelling) driver is Utah’s Steve Holcomb. Steve grew up in and around Park City and now command’s the USA I sled or the “Night Train” as he and his teammates call it. They are the Gold Medal favorites in the four-man event for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Holcomb was the featured player in Thursday’s media event at Utah Olympic Park, promoting his involvement with Sega’s Winter Olympic video games rollout. Part of the celebration was allowing a choice few of us to ride shotgun behind Steve on a bobsleigh down the Utah Olympic Park’s track.

The Utah Olympic Park’s bobsleigh skinny: nearly a mile long, dropping nearly a thousand feet, speeds reaching 80 mph, G-forces between 4 and 5 and 15 turns, packed in with three of your newest, best friends. Billed as ‘the most intense minute of your life, like nothing you’ve ever experienced.’

I’m not exactly a thrill-seeker, but I do love a challenge so since I was up there with KSL cameraman Jay Dortzbach to gather feature material with Steve anyway (shooting his training runs early in the day and his pitch for the video games), I figured it would be cool to take a ride down Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympic bobsleigh run with this era’s best.

As the day went on, me being the inquisitive type, asked many of the Olympians and Utah Olympic Park people about the bobsleigh “experience”. As Pat told me, “you’ll either love it or… you’ll hate it. Some people can handle it… some just can’t.”

Our orientation instructor John added, “If you get in and don’t think you can handle it, it’s totally ok to just get out, but obviously once we push you off you’re committed.”

Paul told me, “at about turn four you’ll think ‘I can handle this… this is really cool,’ but then the turns come fast and furious and the G-forces start working on your mind and body, you’ll totally lose your ability to focus. It’s total sensory overload.”

Then came my time to lock and load. Armed with a mini-camera mounted on the top of my helmet and a mini-cam mounted on the side of the ‘sleigh,’ even though I wasn’t sure I could handle it, there was too much riding on my sitting down and getting on with it. Cameras rolling and I was responsible for the main video going forward right behind Holcomb. I HAD to stay calm and not let the G-forces throw my head around. Off we went, beginning is smooth and slow, gorgeous view of greater Park City, after a quick prayer I just told myself to hold tight and enjoy the ride.

Click here for the entire article and video.
Click here to book your own ride on the bobsled.

AdventuresWithBen.com Visits the Park

Utah Olympic ParkThe  team at adventureswithben.com recently visited Utah Olympic Park. Here is an excerpt from the report of their trip:

A trip to the Utah Olympic Park is a great afternoon. After having lunch in Park City, Utah, we continued down the road to the official home of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Visitors to the park will find themselves at the bottom of a long, windy road that leads to the summit of the mountain. Once at the top, you’ll have a great view of the city below, and the chance to get an up close look at Olympic Memorabilia from the 2002 games.

Guided tours are available for a small fee, but the museum itself is free. If you time it right, you may also see athletes training (even all year round). Instead of ski jumping into powdery snow, they land in a refreshing pool! And for the adventurous, come wintertime, you can even take a bobsled ride!

1 Hour is not enough if you want to see it all. With all the exhibits, films, tours and photo opportunities, you could make the most of this experience in about 2 – 2.5 hours. For the future Olympian or spectator, you’ll have a delightful afternoon at the Utah Olympic Park.

The sports center has interactive exhibits on the region’s ski history and Olympic events. You can try your hand at slalom skiing, watch videos on the games and even try to lift a curling stone. Check out a few of the highlights.

Click here to read the full article.

WHAT THEY SAID: Just Let Go

Click here for the original blog post.

We ended up at Utah Olympic Park. As we toured the facility, the EXTREME zip line caught our attention. So, once we were finished learning about the park, we made a B-Line for the Zip-Line. It is the steepest in the world – and we just HAD to do it. So, my mom, aunt and I paid for our tickets and proceeded up the mountain on the lift. When we made it to the top, I was in awe of the vision before me. Indeed, we were at a high elevation. I felt so insignificant compared to the view. As we suited up my anticipation grew. Up until this point, I had been relatively calm. But now, in the harness, waiting for the door to open, I was extremely STOKED. Once all of us were ready to go, the door opened, and I just let go.

I was AMAZED.

WHAT THEY SAID: Putting The Park To Good Use

Utah Olympic ParkClick HERE for the original blog post.

While everyone was out here this summer, I decided to put those awesome vouchers I got on a field trip to the Utah Olympic Park to good use. We had a voucher good for three rides on the zip line at the Oly park. It is one of the world’s steepest zip lines and is over 1400 feet long! I was dying to try it out because it seems like I was pregnant the last two times I got the voucher. Each ride is $20 so it was a $60 value! And, it was one of my favorite field trips.

Colin and I love to shop in Park City too. So, Colin, the boys, Bruce, Katie, Erin and I all headed up to Park City for the day.

We did the Outlet malls and got a few things for back-to-school. Then after that we headed over to the Oly park. We headed over to the zip line and had a total blast. I did at least. I was so excited to finally ride the zip line. Colin, Erin, Katie and I were all able to ride the zip line at the same time. You ride a ski lift up to the top of the mountain and then they strap you into a five-point harness seat. You sit there up against the metal door and then when everything is ready they push a green button, the door swings open, and you go flying down the zip line. It was so much fun.