Steamboat to Sochi: Steamboat has long history of sending athletes to Olympics | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat to Sochi: Steamboat has long history of sending athletes to Olympics

Luke Graham

Flags representing each of the local athletes who have attended past Olympic Games hang from the ceiling of Olympian Hall inside the Howelsen Hill Lodge.

— Two steps into Olympian Hall, and it's hard not to take a gander toward the ceiling. There, flags of host Olympic countries cover just about every crevasse of open space: American, Italian, Canadian, Japanese and Norwegian flags, just to name a few.

It's a reminder of the past Olympics and a nod to the countries that hosted them. But it's also a striking reminder of Steamboat's own Olympic heritage.

On each flag is the name of a Steamboat Olympian and the Games he or she participated in.

Before this year's Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Steamboat had 79 athletes that have gone to the Olympics.

Steamboat had 16 in 2002, 20 in 2006 and 17 in 2010.

That is more than what some small countries send.

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This year, at time of publication, Steamboat will have sent somewhere around 90 athletes to the Winter Games.

It all started in 1932 with John Steele, who placed 15th in Nordic jumping.

It continued with Billy Kidd winning the first American men's Alpine medal in 1964, Nelson Carmichael winning a bronze in moguls in 1992, Shannon Dunn winning a bronze in snowboarding in 1998, Travis Mayer winning a silver in moguls in 2002 — and who can forget the 2010 Games?

There, Johnny Spillane became the first American male to win a medal in Nordic combined, a silver.

The team followed it up with another silver from Spillane, a gold from Billy Demong and a silver in the team event.

And as Steamboat's contingent moves toward Russia, there is a good chance more hardware could be headed this way.

It starts again with the Nordic combined team, led by three Steamboat locals and Demong, who spent an abundance of time training here.

Demong and brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher will compete in the individual events, and Todd Lodwick will join for the team event. It will be Lodwick's sixth appearance at the Winter Olympics, the most of all time.

In snowboarding, it's another sibling affair as Taylor and Arielle Gold each have a legitimate shot at medaling in snowboard half-pipe.

In moguls, former Steamboat skiers Patrick Deneen and Eliza Outtrim have shown their staying power on the World Cup, each having a chance at a medal.

One thing is certain: Ceiling space at Olympian Hall will continue to be at a premium.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham