It's easy to like Travis Mayer.He's intelligent, unassuming and pleasant. Not unlike many of the other 20-somethings who live in Steamboat Springs, but with one major exception.
He won the silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.
These days, he's a little older than when I first met him several years before his Olympic success, but his personality and outlook remain unchanged.
Since the medal, he has logged more miles than a rodeo cowboy and shared many of the same aches and pains. The top results and the attention he's received have done little to change him.
Some athletes might let winning a medal in the biggest event in all of skiing go straight to their heads -- but not Travis.
He was not looking for his 15 minutes of fame.
In the weeks after the games, he returned to the same routine that got him to Salt Lake. It didn't surprise me that, after the games, he returned to Steamboat and went back to the things that seem important to him, including his studies at Cornell, where he is a junior, and his skiing.
I find it easy to believe Mayer when he tells me that getting widespread attention for his accomplishments is not what motivates him. Sure, he seeks recognition, but only from a select group of people.
He said he gets plenty of attention from his friends and family and the people who follow the sport of freestyle skiing more than once every four years. Those people already know just how good he is.
But nobody knows which athletes will represent Steamboat when the Olympics open 313 days from now.
But I hope that Mayer is among them. Like so many other local athletes, past and present, Mayer represents our town in a way that should make us all proud.
For him, the allure of the Winter Olympic Games is not the hype, and it's not about grabbing a few minutes from David Letterman or Jay Leno.
For him, the games are about meeting the challenge and performing when the time comes. It's about reaching deep inside on a chilly day in February to find that little extra thing that will make him better than an elite group of athletes who have proven they are the best in the world.
Each year, Olympic athletes are asked to earn their spots by competing on a grueling World Cup circuit that leaves them bruised and battered.
They spend their summers training to be the best and trying to find that little edge they will need when the snow starts to fly.
For these athletes, the Olympic Games are the only real payoff. It's their chance to prove to the world that they are the best and deserve to be recognized.
Some will make the most of a few fleeting moments in the bright lights of the media, and others, such as Mayer, will revel in the true meaning of the Olympic Games.