The news was also good for Vermont and the region as well. The number of United States Olympic Team members with ties to the area is approaching double digits (See article on page A1).
Who knows? After this year's games, the medal count may approach that as well.
Leading the way is the incomparable Kelly Clark, heading to her fifth Winter Olympics to compete in the snowboarding halfpipe. She has three medals and a fourth-place finish in her first four Olympics. Devin Logan is also set to make history, as she is the first US skier to qualify in both the halfpipe and slopestyle competitions. Lindsey Jacobellis returns for her fourth Olympics, and she hopes to add another boardercross medal to her impressive resume. Between them, they have five medals and hope to add more next month.
Another thing that's really exciting is the next generation of Olympians coming from southern Vermont. Caroline Claire and Emerson Smith are 17 and 20, respectively, and heading to their first Winter Games. It certainly must be exciting for them, their families, and their coaches. Once there, anything can happen. One of them could be the next US athlete to stun the world and come away with an unexpected medal. It can happen, just ask Clark or Logan about that.
There is no doubt that it takes a tremendous amount of sacrifice, work, and desire for anyone to become an Olympic athlete. The rewards can be great, personally and professionally. Getting there is the first reward. Competing at the highest of levels is the second. Finally, earning a podium finish, or even a top-10 finish, can vault an athlete to the upper echelons of his or her sport.
It also takes a tremendous amount of effort behind the scenes, from coaching and training to logistics and family support.
While the athletes receive the bulk of the attention and praise for their performances, and deservedly so, it is important to realize there are quite a few people in the wings responsible for making a world-class athlete a world-class athlete.
Think about the family support part of the equation. Olympic athletes don't just show up and compete. For the most part, they have given a lifetime of effort to get to that point. There are the countless hours parents spend driving to events and practices, waiting, and then repeating the trips the next day or next week. Think about the costs involved. Not every family can afford all that it takes, and that's where the academies, sponsors, and mountains often get involved. It takes a big support network to help an athlete reach his or her potential.
When an athlete reaches to podium during the Olympics and the national anthem is played while the flags are being hoisted, praise should be duly feted on them. But, regardless of where they come from, it's important to recognize the effort made by those who support the athletes.
The fact that many of them come from southern Vermont, and received the kind of support necessary to make the Olympic team, should make us all proud.
Good luck next month to all of our local Olympians. May you, your teammates, and every competitor live up to the Olympic motto: faster, higher, stronger.