Park City’s Olympic legacy
April 8, 2014
As an April micro-blizzard dumped huge flakes of snow down historic Main Street, three hometown Olympic champions huddled together for the photographers Ted Ligety, Sage Kotsenburg and Joss Christensen. At their side was Steve Holcomb, proudly sporting his 2010 gold and a pair of 2014 bronze. Four homegrown, hometown heroes.
If you were dropped blindly into the scene, you would have to ask yourself, ‘how in the world did one community produce so many medals?’
Since that June day in 1989 when the U.S. Olympic Committee gave Salt Lake City the American bid, Park City’s destiny was being mapped. It tracks to the move of the U.S. Ski Team in 1973-74, the first Park City World Cups in 1985 and the opening of the Utah Winter Sports Park in 1993. This is what an Olympic city should be.
"It’s just so cool to come back and see all our supporters and fans," said Christensen, fresh back from the White House. "It’s my first parade on a float down Main Street."
This was the day Park City kids had been anticipating since February. Crowds lined Main Street top to bottom, with kids following the parade down to the Town Lift Plaza.
"People always ask me where I’m from — Park City, this is my hometown, this is where I was born," said Holcomb. "It’s amazing to come back and show off the medals. These are home-grown Olympic medals. I’m so proud to be able to share these with the kids here."
For Ligety, who walked with the Park City Ski Team kids, along with Kotsenburg and Christensen, nearby Park City Mountain Resort was home. It’s where Ted was inspired watching Alberto Tomba at America’s Opening. It’s the place Sage mapped his destiny the day he saw the men’s halfpipe sweep in 2002 as an 8-year old. And it’s the venue where Joss went big on the final day of the Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix Olympic qualifier to write his ticket to Sochi.
"Today is a pretty big honor," said Kotsenburg. "We just got back from Washington, D.C., last night. I’ve only been back to Park City two days since the Olympics. Having the hometown out there is great. They were supporting during the Olympics and coming out today to support us is really cool."
Hanging out in the wet snow was no burden for the Olympic medalists. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that it was them looking up to their stars.
"I had a big meeting with the kids who look up to all of us," said Sage. "I remember being that kid — having 20 signatures on my jacket. It’s really cool to inspire kids as a snowboarder."
As the parade neared the bottom of Main Street, Joss jumped out to join the kids streetside. Sporting an ear-to-ear smile, the Olympic champion proudly held up his medal a pied piper with a growing pack of future stars following him down the street.
"Wow I hope to have one of those someday," said a young 13-year-old boy, touching the gold medal ever so carefully.
"Go for it man," said an encouraging Christensen.
This is what legacy is all about. This is why every kid in Park City has not only a dream, but a way for those dreams to be fulfilled. As you panned across the crowd you couldn’t help but be filled with hope. Surely, there were three or four future gold medals in the crowd.
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.