Olympic athletes oftentimes overlooked


— What a difference a year can make.

Last year at this time, local skiers, Nordic combined athletes and winter Olympians were being pursued by newspapers, magazines and television news shows.

It was a peak in popularity that could only be explained by one thing the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

But that was last year.

These days, those same athletes are out of their training, out their competing and representing the red, white and blue around the world.

But the spotlight, unfortunately, is shining somewhere else.

The athletes are not complaining about it, however, for them it's just part of the game they have decided to play.

The Olympics were just nine months ago and I would have a hard time finding someone who could tell me the name of the country that won the men's curling competition, which nation won ice dancing or who was the king of the 15-kilometer classical cross country race.

If you're thinking it was Norway, Marina Anissina, Gwendal Peizerat and Andrus Veerpalu of Estonia, I want you on my team the next time I play Olympic Trivial Pursuit at a dinner party.

But I will still argue that most people on the street would have a hard time getting one of those questions right, let alone all three.

And that is here in Ski Town USA, where the Winter Olympic Games are as much a part of everyday life as getting out of bed in the morning.

If I went to Denver, I think I would have a hard time finding a person who could tell me what two skiing disciplines make up the sport of Nordic combined.

The truth is that for most Americans the Winter Games are something they think about once every four years in small, easy-to-understand packages provided by NBC.

Once the Games are over, most of them will go back to the sports they have a better understanding of, such as football, baseball, basketball and hockey.

There is nothing wrong with that, except that many truly talented athletes will not get the recognition they deserve in non-Olympic years.

Those athletes will continue to train and compete under the radar and outside the scope of most Americans.

The good news is, if those athletes continue to progress and work hard they may get the chance to see the spotlight again.

The bad news is that they will have to wait another 1,194 days until the spotlight is lit again in Torino, Italy for 14 memorable days.

I still wonder who was the captain of that gold medal men's curling team.


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