THE XXII WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES
DATES: February 7-23
PLACE: Sochi, Russia
TV: NBC Network
DAYS LEFT UNTIL THE OPENING CEREMONIES (as of this writing): Three
With the exception of the NHL players who will be going for the gold as they play for their respective countries, you really have to feel for these athletes whose only real moment in the sun comes every four years at around this time.
Even compared to their summer counterparts, outside of hockey, figure skating (Who will ever forget the Nancy Kerrigan / Tonya Harding scandal in 1994? Can you believe that was twenty years ago?) and maybe bobsled thanks to that Jamaican team in 1988 that inspired the movie “Cool Runnings”, the Winter Olympics, regretably, seems a tiny bit like a stepchild.
Sure, Eric Heiden and Apolo Ohno (speed skating) have become household names, as have ice darlings like Kristi Yamaguchi, Dorothy Hamill, Tara Lipinski, Sarah Hughes, Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen, and Peggy Fleming.
And we will always remember the 1980 Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid.
But let me put it like this…
Everyone knows who Usain Bolt is, but how many people can name even one person on the U.S. Luge team?
Or the U.S. Biathlon team?
Or the U.S. Curling team?
In fact, let’s get even more real – how many Americans know what these sports are?
That’s why the Winter Olympics is so important to the young men and women who are about to participate in it; it’s their big chance to show the world what they can do and how good they are at it.
Even in light of all the controversy surrounding these upcoming Games – financial problems, infrastructure problems, terrorism concerns, issues regarding how gays will be treated in Sochi – it’s a guarantee that once the torch is lit, there will be great stories and drama unfolding, with heroes and sweethearts emerging.
230 athletes from the United States will make up the U.S. Team, the largest of any country and a record for the Winter Olympics, with twenty of them being from California.
Among those twenty, here’s a list of prominent people from Southern California who will be competing over the next 17 days, starting with the players from our two NHL teams, the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks, who will suit up for team USA:
Jonathan Quick, goalie, Kings
Dustin Brown, forward, Kings, and…
Cam Fowler, defenseman, Ducks
The other prominent SoCal athletes who will be in Sochi and have a shot at a medal are:
Gracie Gold, Figure Skating – Even though she’s technically from Massachusetts, the 2014 U.S. Champion trains in El Segundo, which is just south of the Los Angeles international Airport and 20 miles west of downtown L.A.
Cory Butner, Men’s Bobsled – Hails from Yucaipa, which is roughly 70 miles east of L.A.
Kate Hansen, Luge – This 21-year old was born in Burbank (ten miles northwest of downtown L.A.) and lives in La Canada (20 miles northwest of downtown L.A.). She is an up-and-comer who won the 2013 national championships in October.
The biggest name from SoCal who will be in Sochi is this snowboarder, who is considered the Tony Hawk of his sport…
Shaun White – Hailing from Carlsbad, which is just north of San Diego, this Olympic veteran is perhaps America’s biggest hope as he won two gold medals for the Men’s Halfpipe in Turin (2006) and Vancouver (2010).
His 13 gold medals at the Winter X Games, dating from 2002, is only part of his impressive resume, which includes many endorsement deals and TV and movie appearances.
While the list of SoCal athletes in the Summer Olympics would be much longer than this one, these are folks who – at the risk of sounding clicheish – will give their absolute best and, if they don’t end up on the medal stand, will be like the 98% of all Olympians who will never get a medal, whose big accomplishment is marching in the Opening Ceremonies and being able to compete.
That, in itself, is something to celebrate as we wish these SoCal athletes in particular good luck.