Joel Reichenberger: Seizing the opportunity in Sochi

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— I’ve wondered in the past what exact advantages Steamboat Springs bestows on its athletes.

For instance, would Johnny Spillane have been Johnny Spillane if he were from, say, Cleveland? Are the four members of the U.S. Olympic Team for Nordic combined the best possible representatives from all 312 million Americans or were they just the ones with the most opportunity?

The answer is pretty obvious, of course. They’re the ones with the most opportunity, a chance provided by their happening to grow up here, with the amazing resources of this town.

Believe me, I’m well aware of the influence Steamboat Springs can have on someone’s career.

I never dreamed I’d get the chance to cover the Olympics, not even when I first seriously considered accepting a job here, almost exactly six years ago. I got the inkling four years ago, when two co-workers were shipped off to Vancouver, that if I hung around, I might get a crack, but with so much unknown in those intervening years, I certainly couldn’t expect it.

Yet here I go, off to the biggest and surely (one of) the best assignments I’ve gotten in my decade in journalism. (Hey, I got to cover the 2003 Big 12 Championship football when Kansas State beat Oklahoma … easily one of the best nights of my life.)

I never felt any kind of siren song luring me to Steamboat. Six years ago, the time was right, both for me and the newspaper, and because it happened to be Steamboat where it worked out for me and not, say, Cleveland, here I go, to the Olympics, another lucky soul riding the wave of Ski Town U.S.A.

The prospect actually makes me a little nervous. I’m serving as photographer. I’m sure I’ll do plenty of writing, but job No. 1 is photos. Yikes. This isn’t any slalom race for 10 year olds on Howelsen Hill.

The REAL pros shoot the Olympics, right? Am I up to the task? I’ve certainly photographed every sport Steamboat Springs has to offer, with success. And while I have a pretty professional outfit myself, some loaner equipment from Nikon will ensure I’m as well supplied as most “real pros” I stand beside. (Though, when I was talking with Nikon about their loan program, it took all I had not to scream and jump while on the phone … Act like you’ve been there, Joel.)

My questions actually come back to that thought about local athletes. How much does opportunity weigh into their current lot in life?

It certainly is a major factor, but the opportunity to be an Olympic athlete isn’t just handed out to these men and women who I’m flying across the world to cover. Maybe if they lived in, say, Cleveland, they would be doing something else, but given the drive, the responsibility and the confidence it has taken for them to realize their goals to this point in life, they certainly would be successful in that something else.

That’s what I need to keep in mind myself. Landing on the sports desk in Steamboat Springs has afforded me a tremendous opportunity to cover one of the great spectacles in sports. The prospect makes me nervous, and excited, and it’s going to take all I have to do that opportunity justice.

I can’t wait to get at it.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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