Olympism: The power of parents | ParkRecord.com

Olympism: The power of parents

Tom Kelly, Park Record Columnist

Olympism is a powerful force, bringing together family, friends and fans in the support of aspiring champions. It’s about belief – the core of the U.S. Ski Team’s Believe in U.S. rallying cry heading into Sochi.

Its power was evident last week in the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Team USA Ambassador program for the U.S. Freestyle Moguls Team at its Wolf Creek, Colo., training camp. Olympic veterans, including Shannon Bahrke, shared their experiences with teammates to better prepare them for the 80 days ahead.

When young Shannon Bahrke found her father crying after she qualified for the 2002 Olympic Team, she asked what was wrong. "My baby is going to the Olympics," he said. "It was then I realized I wasn’t just doing this for myself – it was for my family and my country," said Bahrke.

Hannah Kearney was just eight years old when her family took her to a welcome home celebration for Olympic silver medalist Liz McIntyre in 1994. Her dad recalls how she told a friend that one day she, too, would go to the Olympics. Four years later she was mesmerized, taking time out of a moguls comp to watch Jonny Moseley’s 1998 gold medal run. The stage was set for her Olympic gold 12 years later.

Out in Montana, 10-year-old Bryon Wilson also watched Moseley take gold. The gymnast and baseball player started moguls skiing the next year. Eleven years later he was an Olympic medalist. "After I had won the bronze, at the end of the mixed zone, my brothers and entire family from Montana were all there. It was one of the most special things I’ll ever experience. It’s not just you, it’s your entire family – they’re all rooting for you. It’s really special and I’ll never forget it."

Montanan Heather McPhie had a similar experience. Watching Moseley in his trademarked purple and orange Bula hat, she was in tears – calling her parents to let them know that moguls skiing was an Olympic sport. Four years later, her folks decided spontaneously to drive to Salt Lake City. The 17-year-old was standing next to the Bahrke family when Shannon won silver.

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"My biggest Olympic moment was the whole team coming together walking into the Opening Ceremony," said McPhie."It was the first time I felt like an Olympian. Everybody was chanting ‘USA’ – it’s a huge momentum of positive spirit. Most of all, I knew that my parents were somewhere in that crowd."

The world remembers Hannah Kearney for her 2010 gold. But Kearney remembers a 2006 Olympics that didn’t go as planned. The defending World Champion, she failed to make finals. "My biggest fear was that I would disappoint a larger audience than had ever watched me ski," she said. "What I learned was that no matter what happens, your community and your family will be proud of you if you do your best. After that, I reminded myself that my family would love me no matter what. It was calming for me. It’s still just a sport. Life will go on."

The force in the room was powerful as veterans related their Olympic experiences. But what stood out above all was the camaraderie of the team. In the room were 16 athletes. Only half of them will get an Olympic berth. Despite the fact that moguls skiing is an individual sport, they live, work and train together for the betterment of each other.

"You’re a team representing something bigger," said McPhie, whose 2010 win in Deer Valley sent her to Vancouver. "You bond. It’s a different experience — it’s way bigger than anything you’ve ever done.

Her advice to the rookies? "Act as a team. Celebrate that! Stay positive and light hearted. And remember, it takes a team to achieve your goals."

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