John Russell's sports column appears Tuesdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs The Olympics can inspire athletes to achieve their greatest goals. The Olympics can drive athletes to train harder and be their best.
Lou Tyon, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation, also hopes the Olympics can help break a cycle he's faced his entire life.
Lou's 7-year-old grandson Delaney dreams of skiing at the Winter Olympics and representing his county and his people. Skiing legend Billy Kidd has taken a personal interest in helping Delaney pursue his dreams after watching a video on YouTube. Kidd knows Delaney faces an uphill battle, and his chances of winning a medal are even slimmer.
But those odds have not stopped Delaney from dreaming, or developing a lifelong love of skiing. He spends the falls and winters living in a house his grandfather rents in Steamboat Springs so he can be closer to coaches and our world-class resort.
In Steamboat, he is exposed to skiing and a lifestyle that many of his friends in South Dakota don't understand. When he's here, he is removed from his Native American heritage and the traditions of his family.
While Delaney dreams of becoming a great skier, he also learns traditional Native American dances.
Delaney's family moved a few miles off the Pine Ridge Reservation when he was four.
Lou says life on the reservation is difficult. He fears that drugs, alcohol and poverty already have killed too many people.
But it's a cycle that is being broken every day. Delaney's mom, Misty, graduated from college in Rapid City and earned her master's from the University of South Dakota. Lou says it's a rare story on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where one in 100 children graduate from college.
Delaney got his big break a few years ago when a local TV station aired footage of the then-5-year-old skiing. The video was posted to YouTube and eventually led Delaney to Steamboat Springs - and to a new friend with his own Olympic heritage.
"Suzy (Chaffee) called me and said there's a video that I have to see," Kidd recalled last week.
For years, Kidd has worked alongside his friend Chaffee to bring young Ute Indians off the reservation to ski in places like Steamboat Springs. Kidd simply wanted to make a difference in a young person's life.
"Skiing has always been viewed as a rich man's sport," Kidd said. "We just want to give these children a chance to experience skiing."
Last year, Delaney finished first in his age division at the Nastar national finals, and another Olympic dream was born.
If Kidd's dreams come true, Delaney will make a difference in the lives of the people he touches, including those who read the papers in his hometown looking for positive news. If Delaney's dream comes true, he will win again. Maybe even at the Olympics.