Olympians honored in Utah and Colorado
The week before most American Winter Olympians headed to Vancouver for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Games, several special athlete send-offs where held in Salt Lake City, home of the 2002 Games, and Steamboat Spings, Colo.
Around 25 winter Olympians living and training at the 2002 venues in and around Salt Lake City were sent to Vancouver with a 20,000-person standing ovation before an NBA match up between the Utah Jazz and the Portland Trailblazers Wednesday night. Ski racers Steven Nyman, Erik Fisher, Andrew Weibrecht and Ted Ligety were among those honored at the Energy Solutions arena, home of short-track speed skating and figure skating events during the 2002 Games.
“It was really cool,” said Nyman of the Salt Lake reception, where the Olympic spirit continues to thrive. “They introduced us and showed us on the jumbotron. We got a standing ovation then everybody started chanting ‘U.S.A.’”
Aerialist Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, skeleton sliders Zach Lund, Noelle Pikus-Pace and Katie Uhlander and short-track speed skaters Aly Dudek, Jordan Malone, J.R. Celski, Katherine Reutter, Kimberly Derrick, Lana Gehring, Simon Cho and Travis Jayner were also in attendance.
On Friday evening, 6,000 Team U.S.A. supporters gathered in Steamboat Springs, Colo. to send off a group of 30 Olympians. The entire U.S. Olympic Moguls Team, which is training in Steamboat, and the Olympic Nordic Combined Team waved to the crowd, shook hands and signed autographs.
The celebration closed down Steamboat Springs, the community that has more Winter Olympians than any other in America (75). Fans enjoyed seeing the athletes in action on a large screen and in a trampoline show.
After the presentation, athletes signed autographs in local businesses.
Huge lines formed for Steamboat’s own World Champion Johnny Spillane and teammates Billy Demong and Brett Camerota at Vectra Bank. Four-time Olympic moguls skier and World Champion Ann Battelle signed in High Country Sotheby's, while nordic combined skiers Todd Lodwick, Taylor Fletcher and Olympic Coach Dave Jarrett were in the Smokehouse. Olympic bronze medalist Nelson Carmichael signed in Off the Beaten Path Bookstore while Steamboat's own Billy Kidd was in Steamboat Ski and Sport.