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January 22, 2014 | Tim Hauserman
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are just around the corner, beginning on February 6th. While worldwide attention is focused on security concerns caused by the events location near a hot bed of anti-Russian sentiment, those of us in Tahoe are just thrilled to see the winter sports, and athletes, that we know and love.
Over the past several months, I’ve had the privilege of writing a series of stories for The Weekly about Tahoe based athletes who are doing their best to make it to the Olympics, and of course once they get there, bring home the gold. It’s been a true privilege. Every one of these athletes are fascinating and focused individuals, and they all expressed unabashed love for this wonderful place we call Tahoe. While they will not all make the Olympic team or bring home glory, they are all driven to do the best they can, and absolutely love being outdoors and riding whatever nature throws their way.
I’ve never been on a snowboard, but I was totally impressed and beginning to think I must be missing something fun, when I talked to a whole passel of Tahoe based snowboarders: Hannah Teter, Jayson Hale, Joanna ‘Pnut Dzierzawski, Elena Hicht, Ryan Stassel and Nate Holland. These folks know how to have a good time, but also have the fire of competition in their bellies.
Then there is three-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso. As usual, Mancuso doesn’t look ready to medal this year, and of course that is how she looked the last three times she won Olympic medals. As a cross-country skier, I interviewed two Nordic stalwarts with local connections, Russell Kennedy and Matt Gelso. While both are long shots to make the Olympics, their perseverance against difficult odds is inspiring.
So when you sit your butt down in front of your TV, cheer on our local Olympic hopefuls, and while you are at it, two other truly inspiring athletes: Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins. These cross-country skiers are America’s first true hope of winning an Olympic medal in woman’s cross-country skiing. And perhaps equally important, even though they are not from Tahoe, they have been incredibly positive role models to the local girls. These athletes came to Tahoe as part of a program called Fast and Female, inspiring local girls to be the best they can be. It must be working because I hear that a local 7th grade girl is proudly displaying a Kikkan Randall poster on her wall…hopefully it will soon be Olympic Gold Medalist Kikkan Randall.