Inspiring the next generation | ParkRecord.com

Inspiring the next generation

Tom Kelly, Park Record Columnist

A lot is said about legacy and the power the Olympics have to motivate youth. Ask any Olympic medalist about their first sport memory. It’s likely they’ll have a pretty cool story to tell that has shaped their life.

There were plenty of motivational stories in the room last Thursday in New York City at the 48th annual New York Gold Medal Gala. Over 30 Olympic medals were represented including 19 gold medalists from Phil Mahre to Tommy Moe to Sage Kotsenburg.

Among them: Chandler Hunt, a 15-year-old Park City snowboarder, who already holds two national titles, whose motivation comes squarely from his buddy Sage.

When I speak on Olympic legacy I love to show a photograph from this spring’s Park City Olympians parade. It’s a shot of slopestyle skiing Olympic champion Joss Christensen strolling down Main Street, a flock of young kids in tow, with a young boy reaching up to touch Joss’ gold medal. You look at that photograph and you just know in your gut that one of those kids will have his or her own gold medal 10 years from now.

That’s the power of Olympic legacy!

Sage has his own story that’s become so familiar to all of us. At the age of eight, 12 years ago, Sage’s parents took him to the men’s halfpipe snowboarding event at Park City Mountain Resort. He was captivated and put all his energy into his newfound love of snowboarding. As a young rider, he was the kid coaches would have to kick out of the park at closing time every day. He worked hard and simply couldn’t get enough time on the rails.

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Then, on opening day of the Sochi Olympic Winter Games, he won gold. And with it, he inspired kids around the world. One of them was young Chandler Hunt.

"I was in Sun Valley for an important Rev Tour," said Hunt on stage next to his hero Sage at the New York Gold Medal Gala. "I had made finals in halfpipe the next day and I should have been in bed. But I was able to find a live stream of the Olympics on the internet. Sage’s run just came out of nowhere. I started yelling and woke up my parents. I think they thought the condo was on fire."

Chandler took his motivation into the Rev Tour pipe the next day for one of his best runs ever. This spring, he solidified the next step towards his dream with an invitation to join the U.S. Snowboarding Rookie Team.

Hunt’s first sport memory is Shaun White skateboarding in the X Games. Then, as an 8-year-old, he saw Shaun win the halfpipe at the Torino Olympics. "I thought it was just crazy the flying tomato snowboarding. He wanted to be crazy and stand out. He had such a unique style. But, to me, the Olympics were a crazy goal."

But on that day in February, the Olympics seemed oh-so-much-more realistic to Chandler.

One of the magical aspects of Olympic sport is the kid next door. It’s the reality that sinks into kids that they can do this, too. A part of being an Olympic champion is giving back. As Sage stood alongside Chandler Thursday night, there was a gleam in his eye knowing that he had inspired the next generation.

"When I watched Sage win, it was like the happiest I had ever felt," said Chandler. "And I started thinking, ‘if I’m this excited about it, I can’t even imagine how Sage must feel.’"

Stay tuned, Chandler. We have a sense that you’ll know the feeling someday!

One of the most experienced communications professionals in skiing, Tom Kelly is a veteran of eight Olympics and serves as vice president, Communications, for the Park City-based U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. A Wisconsin native, he and his wife Carole Duh have lived in Park City since 1988 when he’s not traveling the world with the team.

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