Friday, December 30, 2005
Steamboat Springs A day like Friday is what separates Steamboat Springs from any other town in the world.
Thousands turned out to support America's 2006 Winter Olympic hopefuls and watched Steamboat Springs resident Ryan St. Onge, Colorado native Jeremy Bloom and East Coast women Emily Cook and Hannah Kearney qualify for the Olympics with wins in the 2006 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in freestyle skiing.
But it isn't just the support on days of huge competitions that makes Steamboat unique.
Resident Jeff Good has traveled the world as a former U.S. Olympic freestyle coach. The adoration Steamboat has for its Olympians is unmatched.
"Being that it is Ski Town
USA, if you look back to the history of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, that moniker comes from how many Olympians we have," Good said. "For most of the athletes, there is a mystique associated with that. I've been all over the world coaching. There is no place that has the broad-based support this city has for its Olympic athletes."
On Friday, supporters turned out en mass, ignoring cold feet and hands, cheering for every past Steamboat Olympian and hanging on every word of the newest ones before Hootie and the Blowfish took the stage for a free concert.
Steamboat's own Caroline Lalive, a two-time Olympian in Alpine skiing, flew back from Europe to be here Friday. She missed two ski races in an Olympic year to be in attendance
"I wasn't a part of it the last time," said Lalive, who missed the 2002 send-off. "I decided I'm coming home. Now that I'm home, I'm so glad I came. This community is incredibly supportive. That's what separates Steamboat from the rest of the world."
Lalive will resume her race season Wednesday in Austria. It isn't official, but she likely has qualified for her third Olympics in the downhill and is still fighting for a spot in the super G. Lalive was on the podium for the first time in four years Dec. 17 in Val D'Isere, France.
She is part of a crop of Steamboat athletes who continue to make the town proud. Another athlete, freestyle skier Travis Mayer, finished second in Friday's moguls competition. Mayer, the 2002 Olympic silver medalist, lit the community caldron Friday night. The caldron will move to the Routt County Courthouse lawn during the Winter Olympics, which begin Feb. 10. It will be lit every night during the Olympics.
Randy Thomas and her husband, David Kutner, and daughter, Rebecca Kutner, made their way from the aerials competition to the Olympic Celebration and Send-off late Friday night. Rebecca was tightly clutching a coffee cup, but the smile never left the young girl's face.
The family from Medford, N.J., came to Steamboat on vacation in 2000. They liked it so much they bought a condo. They didn't know about Steamboat's Olympic tradition. Now, they follow every athlete online and through newspaper stories.
"The thing we like the most about it is the town," Randy said. "It's this little town. You have to want to come here because it's on the way to no place."
Unless that place is the Winter Olympics. In that case, Steamboat Springs is the place to be.