John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Ten years ago on the slopes of a resort in the mountains east of Park City, Utah, a young freestyle skier named Travis Mayer stepped into the starting gate at the Olympics and captured the spirit of Steamboat Springs.
What followed that moment forever will make that skier part of Steamboat’s skiing legacy. Mayer skied to an Olympic silver medal in the men’s moguls event and warmed the heart of a nation still reeling from the events of Sept. 11.
Mayer still can remember the roar of the crowd, the chill of the air and the feeling that overcame him at the top of the hill — the feeling that he needed to go for broke if he wanted to capture Olympic glory.
“I think how you react to winning a medal depends a lot on how you are wired,” Mayer said Friday.
So he says he doesn’t sit around thinking about that day. Sure, he admits it’s been a great talking point to break the ice for interviews, but it’s not something he expects to make a living off of.
“I’m always looking for the next thing. Don’t get me wrong, winning a medal was great. It’s a source of great personal accomplishment that I will feel for the rest of my life. But I’m not sure that it was life changing,” he said.
Mayer skied to a seventh-place finish in the 2006 Olympic Games in Italy, where he announced his retirement from skiing.
He wrapped up his education at Cornell University and went on to get a Master of Business Administration at Harvard. Today, Mayer is working out of Denver for Intrawest, where he focuses on financial planning and business development.
Although the Olympic Games now are in Mayer’s past, he admits the process of getting to the 2002 and 2006 games has changed his life in positive ways. He says the process of being an elite athlete prepared him for the academic world, the business world and the real world.
Whenever he wants to reach a goal in his life, Mayer says he has approached it like he still was a competitive skier. He sets the goal, examines his strengths and weaknesses and then makes a plan. That plan included ways to overcome the weaknesses and improve his strengths. It’s a formula he used to win silver in 2002, it’s the formula he used to earn his degrees and it’s how he continues to approach life.
He says the feelings from that February day in 2002 will last forever.
The feeling of walking to the opening ceremonies in sub-freezing temperatures. The feeling of being inspired by the crowds of people who lined the streets to see him. The feeling he had as he sat at the top of a mogul run with the biggest crowd he had ever seen chanting his name so loud.
“I knew at that moment I had to go for broke,” Mayer said. “I remember just being happy that I had gotten the opportunity to ski in the Olympics. It’s a special feeling that I will never take lightly.”
On that day, Mayer discovered that Olympics will come and go, but the glory that comes from winning a medal — well that is something the years can’t take away.