Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Steamboat Springs Chariot racing will be incorporated into the Olympics for the first time in modern history and Steamboat's Shane Yeager is excited to be a part of it.
On Saturday, Yeager will take his team of horses to compete in the World Chariot Challenge in Ogden, Utah. Although not an official Olympic sport or exhibition, the world chariot racing event will be held in conjunction with the Olympic Games.
Ogden, which has been the site of the World Championships in chariot racing for the past few years and is close to Salt Lake City, is expected to draw crowds of 8,000 to 10,000 spectators to the racing events Saturday and Sunday. More than 70 teams throughout the western United States will join Yeager in competing at the World Chariot Challenge.
"It's just exciting to have the opportunity to compete," Yeager said.
As the only representative from Colorado and Wyoming, Yeager was chosen to go after performing well in three qualifying races this season.
While Yeager has been racing for the past two seasons with the team he will be taking to the challenge Beaudacious Smith and Stogey he is not sure how well they will do against some of the top teams in the country.
Most of the 70 teams will be separated by just a second, Yeager said, which means anything could happen in a race that has teams of two horses barreling down a quarter-mile straightaway at speeds at more than 45 mph.
"The (competition) is going to be huge. Just a second is going to separate the good guys and the not-so-good guys," he said. "When you're running that close and it's all decided by that little of time, anything could happen."
The toughest competition will likely come from the host state, Utah. But Yeager said above-average preparation has been put into this year's race because of the added publicity.
On the first day of trial runs, Yeager's team has to make the top 64 to go on to Sunday's competition.
Yeager, who has lived most of his life with his family on the Bar Lazy L Ranch, began to compete in chariot racing in Steamboat when he was 16 years old, the youngest age the local racing association allows. He has been competing at the local chariot racing events all season and is battling Richard Green for first place in the Yampa Valley Cutter and Chariot Racing Association.
Despite the fear that it could exclude the small competitors, Yeager would like to see chariot racing return to the Olympics and add more life into a fading sport, even if the western version is quite different than the one practiced in the original Olympic Games.