Utah Olympic Park was the site of 14 events during the 2002 Winter Olympics. It has the fastest sliding track and highest elevated jumps in the world and remains an important training venue for luge, skeleton, bobsled, freestyle, and nordic skiing. Athletes from around the world train here both in the summer and in the winter. The park is open to the public, offering tours and a comprehensive museum chronicling the 2002 Winter Olympics. In addition, bobsled and skeleton rides areavailable. On the bobsled ride, a pilot takes riders on an 80 mph trip, at almost 5Gs of force. During the summer, zip line and alpine slide rides are offered.
Before leaving Park City, I donned my three layers of clothing, heavy boots, and down jacket and went to watch members of the US Olympic Nordic ski jumping and freestyle ski teams practice a week before they travel to Vancouver. Nordic ski jumping has been part of the Olympics since the first winter Olympics in 1924. The team is made up of four members who will have one training jump followed by two scored jumps. Using long, thin skis, the athletes fly down what is know as an ‘inrun’ to a take-off ramp where they attempt to go as far as possible. They receive points for distance and style. Right now, only the male Nordic jumpers arepermitted to participate in the Vancouver Olympics. The women’s team waged a losing legal battle this past year to be able to participate.
This year’s US Nordic ski team is reportedly the strongest ever. It boasts three World Champions: Billy Demong from Vermontville, NY, and Todd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane from Steamboat Springs, CO. This is the fifth Olympic for Lodwick. Brett Camerota of Park City, Utah and Taylor Fletcher of Steamboat Springs round out the team.
Freestyle skiing combines ski jumping and acrobatics and has been a medal event at the Olympics only since 1992. Its origins date back to the 1930s and Norwegian Stein Eriksen, now a resident of Park City, is credited with opularizing the first aerial maneuvers. These athletes do multiple flips and twists in the air after skiing off a jump .The score is based on the jump, landing, and degree of difficulty. Most of the present team began as gymnasts. There arefour men and four women on the US aerial team. They are Ashley Caldwell, Hamilton, VA; Emily Cook, Belmont, MA; Jana Lindsey, Black Hawk, SD; Lacy Schnoor, Draper, UT; Matt DePeters, Buffalo, NY; Dylan Ferguson, Amesbury, MA; Jeret Peterson, Boise, ID; and Ryan St. Onge, Winter Park, CO.
After watching all of these athletes perform, I look forward to following their successes in Vancouver.
Vickie Kelber is familiar to many as an ex-City councillor as well as one who has served in many volunteer positions including work with Christmas Island Style, the Marco Island Film Festival, Citizens for a Safer Marco, the Marco Island Historical Society, and the Collier County Environmental Services Turtle Monitoring Program. Before establishing permanent residence in Marco Island with her husband George in 1999, for 25 years she was School Psychologist and Director of Special Services for the New Jersey Department of Education.
Vickie currently enjoys travel, photography, and as you can see, is an avid fan of films.