John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Believe it or not, in just 732 days, the spotlight will fall on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
It may seem like a long time, but for the young athletes hoping to earn a spot in Sochi, Russia, the clock already has started to tick, the words of their stories already have started to fall in place and a few probably have marked the dates from Feb. 7 to 23, 2014, on their calendars.
During the next two years, Olympic hopefuls will train, compete and dream about making it to one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
It’s a journey filled with pitfalls and disappointment. But for the lucky ones who come out on the other side, the rewards can be life changing. Athletes who are named to the Olympic team become part of something much bigger than themselves — they become part of a sporting legacy that spans generations and forms the fibers of what sports are all about.
I have been lucky enough to witness the past three Olympics in person. Despite the fact the Vancouver, British Columbia, games took place more than two years ago, I still can remember the feeling of the cold, soaking rain that fell during the men’s Alpine snowboard race, the feeling of joy that raced through the crowd after watching Lindsey Vonn win the women’s downhill and the feeling of pride that filled the seats at BC Place during the closing ceremonies.
I’m not an athlete, but I understand an athlete’s drive to get to the Olympics and to be one of the few who will ever know what it feels like to represent one’s country.
Many of these athletes compete every winter, but they understand that the Olympic are different. The truth is that it’s just another race, just another opportunity to win.
But once every four years, people from across the world take notice of sports they typically wouldn’t watch, and for a few weeks in February, sports fans in Florida have a chance to watch skiers compete on the snow. They cheer for skaters and bobsledders.
Most people in the United States never will understand the sport of Nordic combined, they never will understand how a snowboarder is scored in a super-pipe competition or how two ski jumpers can soar the same distance and not end up with the same score.
But that’s the great thing about the Olympics. The everyday fan doesn’t need to understand these things to enjoy them.
People who have never heard of Carl Howelsen can cheer for athletes like Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick and Bill Demong. They don’t even have to know that Steamboat Springs is in Colorado.
They simply have to turn on their televisions and enjoy the show.
That’s the magic of the Olympic Games, and we only have a little more than 730 days before the spotlight shines again.