Parade of hometown Olympic champions
April 8, 2014
The parade of Olympians and Paralympians down Main Street on Saturday afternoon was a great way for the young skiers and snowboarders of Park City to get motivated for an offseason of hard work.
Much like hometown heroes and Olympic medalists Ted Ligety, Sage Kotsenburg, Joss Christensen and Steven Holcomb, anyone can take advantage of the world-class facilities Park City boasts to make it to the top of their respective winter sport.
But, not only did Saturday’s festivities, hosted by the Youth Sports Alliance with support from various individuals and organizations throughout the community, motivate youngsters they motivated the returning athletes to get ready for another Olympic/Paralympic cycle.
At a pre-parade breakfast at the Park City Elks Lodge, 2014 Olympians Brad Wilson (freestyle skiing/moguls), Taylor Fletcher (Nordic combined) and Lindsey Van met with a group of young skiers from Park City. Wilson shared a story of an encounter he had with one young athlete.
"I was talking with one of them and he’s got his head on straight," Wilson said. "I asked him what he thinks about when he’s on the hill and he said, ‘Just go fast and have fun, then worry about awards later.’ I’m like, ‘Jeez, it took me 15 years to figure that out.’ And he’s already got it down."
Wilson, a former Youth Sports Alliance athlete, was happy to support an organization that helped him throughout the early part of his career.
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"It’s pretty cool," he said. "They’ve been supporting us so much and to come back and have that support keep going, it’s pretty special."
Fletcher remembers being in awe of Olympic athletes when he was younger, so having a chance to give back to today’s young athletes is something he enjoys.
"The stoke level is pretty high for them," he said. "I would have been that same way when I was their age and I came into a room full of Olympians. It’s a good opportunity for them it gets them excited to get back on skis and motivates them to keep pushing it. It’s something that needs to happen on a regular basis. They develop that passion and want to be the next Park City Olympian."
Ligety, who became the first American male to win a giant slalom gold medal, said he’s proud to have grown up in Park City. The Park City Ski Team alum attributes a lot of his success to the start he got on the slopes of the town.
"Just growing up in this community is so much fun," he told the crowd gathered on lower Main Street Saturday afternoon. "There are so many great opportunities to be had out there. Still calling it home is really awesome."
He went on to praise Park City for producing athletes across several Winter Olympic sports, not just ski racing.
"Watching Sage and Joss do what they did was pretty inspiring," he said. "Seeing that next era of guys coming up through Park City and not just having that racing background, but having the whole new-school background as well, is really cool to see."
Kotsenburg said growing up in Park City helped him in his path to becoming an Olympian and winning the first-ever men’s slopestyle snowboarding gold medal.
"I couldn’t even try to go to the Olympics," Kotsenburg told the parade crowd. "When they added it in, I wanted to go so bad. Doing it for Park City was awesome. We could feel the hometown crowd over there, even though we were thousands of miles away."
With three medals a 2010 gold and two 2014 bronze medals hanging around his neck, Holcomb was asked if he plans to stick around for the 2018 Games.
"That actually seems to be the gold medal question at the moment," he told the crowd. "It’s such a difficult journey going back for another four years is a tough decision.
Though Holcomb’s future is uncertain, several of the athletes in attendance couldn’t wait to start training for next year’s world championships and the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"Monday’s our first day of training," Fletcher said. "We’re going to start out with some good, long endurance hours. Then, through the summer, we start doing more intensity."
"[Sochi] didn’t go well for me," Wilson added. "But, at the same time, experiencing the failure in it was good for me. It’s definitely going to be a tough summer for me a lot of training, a lot of hard work. That comes from that failure. I’m really excited for this upcoming season."
Even though Fletcher doesn’t get much of a break, he said he wouldn’t trade his life for anyone else’s.
"I’m still having fun doing it, and that makes life easy," he said.
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