John F. Russell: Olympic traditions | SteamboatToday.com

John F. Russell: Olympic traditions

Nobody takes more pride in the success of former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes than Nordic Program Director Todd Wilson and his staff.

When the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team takes center stage at Whistler Olympic Park today, you can bet the athletes will be on Wilson's mind. He will be watching the TV coverage as they soar off the ski jump and as they motor around the breathtaking cross-country course, which I spent 40 minutes walking last week with J.C., the photo supervisor for the Olympic cross-country venue. It truly is breathtaking.

But as he watches the Olympics unfold, Wilson says he feels like he has taken a trip in a time machine. He says today's Olympic athletes represent the work he completed years ago, and he understands that the next generation of Olympians is right under his nose, training and competing in Steamboat Springs.

Sure, he appreciates the energy and enthusiasm that the Olympic Games bring to the athletes, coaches and volunteers who support the programs at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club with their money, time and energy.

But there are times, usually in non-Olympic years, when he wonders where to find the support it's going to take to raise more Olympians who will call the hills of Howelsen their home.

He said he's had plenty of volunteers for junior events this season and thinks there will be plenty of support when Steamboat hosts the Junior Olympic Championships in early March. Yes, it's the magic of the Olympics, and Wilson says it is alive and well in our mountain town.

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But the Olympics serve as a reminder that the magic of the games comes from work that took place throughout years, not weeks. It represents many hours on the jump hills of Howelsen and the cross-country tracks that crisscross our mountain valley. It also includes lots of work that goes unnoticed: hours spent on the hill preparing jumps, in the wax room preparing skis or in the office reviewing programs so they fit each athlete.

As he watches the Olympic events in Vancouver, British Columbia, Wilson celebrates the accomplishments of this class of Olympians but remains focused on the next goal. He is driven to make sure Steamboat will continue to fill the pipeline for the next generation of Olympians. At night, he worries that the day will come when Steamboat will not send one of his skiers to the Olympics.

So though the Olympics might be motivation for some volunteers, or might encourage new athletes to try sports such as ski jumping and Nordic combined, that isn't going to make or break Steamboat's long-running Olympic tradition. The next time we celebrate a Steamboat Olympian, we need to remember guys like Wilson. He is not driven by medals or glory, but by the heritage that defines Steamboat Springs' Olympic traditions.