Editorial: Olympic dreams of Parkites are inspiring
If you passed them on the street, you probably wouldn’t have any idea who they are.
They’re not among the biggest stars in winter sports like Ted Ligety or Sarah Hendrickson. They don’t know what it feels like to wear an Olympic gold medal around their necks. For some, just making it to the 2018 Games would be a victory regardless of how they ultimately perform in South Korea.
Regardless, the many Park City athletes chasing their dreams in relative anonymity carry with them stories as inspiring as those of their well-known counterparts who are expected to shine in Pyeongchang. We’re lucky to live somewhere that fosters their competitive spirit and fortunate to count them among our neighbors, even if many of us wouldn’t recognize them at the grocery store.
Take, for instance, the story of Jeff Bauer. The 44-year-old Parkite didn’t start pursuing skeleton seriously until he was nearing 40 and looking for a new challenge after competing in triathlon and bicycle races for years. Roughly four years later, he is on the verge of becoming the first-ever Olympic skeleton racer for Luxembourg, where he spent part of his childhood, after helping create the country’s racing team.
It’s a story plucked from the writer’s room of a hypothetical “Cool Runnings” sequel. But in Park City, Bauer is not alone in pursuing an improbable dream. As another Winter Games approaches, those who have devoted themselves to an athletic endeavor are making a push to reach the pinnacle of their sport.
Whether they’re young and gunning for the Games after a childhood of training or, like Bauer, taking an unusual path to the brink of the Olympics, it’s impossible not to admire their doggedness. Many of us cannot relate to what it must feel like to chase something so intently with no guarantee of success in the end. But their perseverance is an example to us all.
In Park City, there’s a special atmosphere during a Winter Olympics season as we recall what it was like to host the world in 2002. But, thanks to our athletes, we also treasure the reminder of what’s possible when one pursues something with dedication.
As qualifying events continue to unfold this winter, some of our athletes will realize their ambitions. One or two may even surprise in February and emerge from the Games a local celebrity, like underdog gold medal-winning slopestyle skier Joss Christensen in 2014.
But even if we don’t know their names or recognize their faces, we’ll be no less inspired by their efforts and certainly no less proud to call them Parkites.
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