Sochi Olympics 2014: Utah Celebrates Its Competing Olympians

SochiIt is easy to understand why the winter Olympics are so thrilling for a city like Salt Lake. With world class ski resorts just a short drive away, many local skiers, snow boarders and other winter sports enthusiasts gather together to watch athletes take part in their favorite events. Since its hosting of the Winter Olympics in 2002, the Olympic spirits run high here in Salt Lake City.

Top Colligate Athletes

Yahoo! Sports recently surveyed the states’ colligate programs with the most Winter Olympians and Salt Lake City’s Westminster College received the gold medal with 23 athletes heading to Sochi. With the 2002 Olympic facilities nearby, the school’s location is ideal for aspiring athletes. Their partnership with the US Ski and Snowboard Association assists student athletes so they have a chance to attend the private liberal arts school with just 2,295 undergraduate students. Among the Westminster athletes are some of the top contenders to take home medals in the Sochi Games. Moguls ski Heather McPhie has had a strong year nabbing three World Cups wins and recently finished 13th in Freestyle Skiing Moguls; while Lindsey Jocobellis is riding on her success at the X Games in snowboard cross with hopes for Olympic Games redemption.

Top Olympic Athletes with Utah Ties

Nearly 50 members of the U.S. Olympic Team live or train in Utah. Deseret News featured an article highlighting all the athletes and how you can follow them via social media. Each these astounding athletes have a story to tell about their journey to the games showing individual determination, ambition and a certain fire for their sport. We have highlighted 15 homegrown Utah athletes poised for success in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

bobsledusSteven Holcomb of Park City nearly went blind from Keratoconus, a degenerative thinning of the corneas that severely distorts vision, and battled depression prior to winning the first U.S. bobsled gold in 2010 as the pilot of the “Night Train”. His teammate, Chris Fogt competed in the 2010 Olympics as part of the gold winning Bobsled team and then served a year in Afghanistan where he advanced to the rank of captain.

Jared Goldberg, 22, of Holladay grew up racing with the Snowbird Ski Team and started racing at age 6 and by 17 he joined “Team Flow” eventually racing his way on the U.S. Ski Team in 2010. The 2013 season brought glimpse of what Jared could become and coaches decided to give him a few more starts throughout the season which resulted in his winning the downhill title in the U.S. Championships, the NorAm overall title and pre-Olympic training in Sochi. This being his first time competing in an Olympics, Jared compared Sochi to Snowbird “[the mountain] rivals Snowbird and Jackson Hole terrain and that is something I never thought I would say. It’s pillow heaven.”

Faye Gulini of Salt Lake City started riding at Snowbird Ski Resort when she was just 9 years old. Faye is not only an Olympic snowboard cross rider who competed in the 2010 Vancover Olympics but has proven herself a competitor with multiple National Championship titles since 2010. “I couldn’t have had a better season. Not only did I get some of my best results yet, but I was having more fun than ever, traveling and exploring the world with some pretty amazing people” comments Faye on her 2013 accomplishments. Riding on this success and excitement, Faye begins her 2nd Olympic journey on February 16th in Snowboard Cross.

sarahhSarah Hendrickson has beaten all the odds and at just 19 years old is the reigning world champion in women’s ski jumping. Still a teenager, the young ski jumper has already won a U.S. title, a World Championship gold medal and a World Cup globe, making her one of the youngest skiers ever, male or female, to do so. She becomes one of the first ever Olympics for women to compete in ski jumping despite tearing her ACL and MCL in August.

tedlegRenowned champion Ted Ligety aims to take gold in his visit to Sochi. Known for pushing the boundaries of ski racing, Ted began skiing at age 2 in Park City and was racing by age 10 as a member of the Park City Ski Team. At age 18, Ted became a member of the U.S. Ski Team, and in 2006 won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. Additionally, Ted has three World Championships, six U.S. National Championships, and hopes to take gold again in this year’s Olympics.

Steven Nyman of Sundance learned to ski at his Dad’s ski school at age 2. Despite missing the entire 2012 season with a torn Achilles tendon, the Utah skier made a statement on his comeback by returning to the site of his 2006 World Cup win and winning it again in 2013. “It’s just a journey it’s always been a journey. I’ve always believed I had the speed and I hoped to prove it through this year” states Steven regarding his personal journey to the Olympics. He returns to the Olympic Games for the third time with hopes to place top 20 in downhill racing.

noellepinkuspaceNoelle Pikus-Pace of Orem is poised for redemption in the skeleton event. Noelle has been a force in the skeleton event from 2001 but had spent several years focusing on her family. It isn’t easy to be an Olympian and a parent and even harder to be an Olympian who competes primarily in Europe with your family in tow. She summed up her journey by tweeting “Potty training, riding a bike, and winning an Olympic medal :)”.  Having missed the 2006 Olympics due to a freak bobsled crash and in 2010 missed a medal by one-tenth of a second, Noelle has set her sights high at Sochi with the support of her whole family behind her.

Follow these amazing athletes plus the rest of the 230 member U.S. Olympic Team consisting of 106 returning Olympians and 14 Olympic Champions. Check out Team USA’s official page at http://www.teamusa.org/2014teamusa# for schedules and summaries of the victories and defeats at Sochi Russia for the 2014 Olympic Games.

usteam

Twelve years ago Utah met the challenge of the Olympic motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortis” meaning faster, higher, stronger. The 2002 Olympic experience strengthened Utah’s economy, improved the Utah brand and improved Utah’s infrastructure and the state’s businesses continue reap the benefits from having hosted the Games. Today almost 50 Utah athletes traveled to the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games to not only represent their country but their state. Whether they live here year round or capitalize on its terrific training conditions, Utah has a special place in these Olympians hearts. Go USA!

Sources: EDCUtah.Com, DeseretNews.com, Wikipedia,  Sports.Yahoo.Com, USSnowboarding.Com, USSkiTeam.Com

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