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In Lyme, N.H., Shiffrin’s a household name

  • Tom Turkington of Lyme watches Mikaela Shiffrin compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics from the Latham House Tavern in Lyme. Turkington was Shiffrin's neighbor when she briefly lived in Lyme and is one of several townspeople who take a quiet pride in seeing Shiffrin and Patrick Caldwell, another Lyme resident competing in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Tom Turkington (left) and Tami Dowd of Lyme watch from the Latham House Tavern in Lyme as Mikaela Shiffrin competes in the 2018 Winter Olympics. CAITLIN ANDREWSMonitor staff

  • Mikaela Shiffrin, who lived in Lyme and attended school in Vermont, won a gold medal in the Women’s Giant Slalom at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Thursday. She has a chance to win one more medal in the coming week. AP

  • Tom Turkington of Lyme watches Mikaela Shiffrin compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics from the Latham House Tavern in Lyme. Turkington was Shiffrin's neighbor when she briefly lived in Lyme and is one of several townspeople who take a quiet pride in seeing Shiffrin and Patrick Caldwell, another Lyme resident competing in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Tom Turkington of Lyme watches Mikaela Shiffrin compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics from the Latham House Tavern in Lyme. Turkington was Shiffrin's neighbor when she briefly lived in Lyme and is one of several townspeople who take a quiet pride in seeing Shiffrin and Patrick Caldwell, another Lyme resident competing in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Mikaela Shiffrin skis during the first run of the Women’s Giant Slalom at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Thursday. AP

  • Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, speaks during a news conference at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan) =262010000015=



Monitor staff
Friday, February 16, 2018

As Mikaela Shiffrin prepared to launch out of the slalom gate in Pyeongchang, the Latham House Tavern bartender reached for a remote and silenced the music and turned up the TV.

Sitting at the bar, Tom Turkington, a 20-year resident of Lyme, took a sip of his Switchback Ale, eyes fixed on the Olympic broadcast from South Korea. He doesn’t have cable at his house, so if he wants to watch a sporting event, he comes to the Tavern.

On Thursday night, he was there for just one event: To see if Shiffrin, who he said was his neighbor during her years in Lyme, would claim gold medal in the slalom, to complement the gold she won in the giant slalom the day before.

Beside him was Audra Charron and David Leib, a pair of virologists studying herpes simplex at Dartmouth. They cross the Connecticut River at least once a week from Thetford, Vt., for date night at the Tavern. The trio watched Shiffrin’s flying descent, knowing something was off.

“Did she say she got sick beforehand?” Leib asked.

Charron shook her head as the 1:39.03 score flashed onscreen. “She’s off,” she said, “and she’s only going to go down from there, as more people compete.”

Shiffrin – who later attributed her pre-race throw-up to anxiousness – would ultimately place fourth in the slalom.

But at the end of the day, those in Lyme don’t really care where Shiffrin places. They don’t care that the Team U.S.A. website lists her hometown as Eagle-Vail, Colo. Shiffrin lived in Lyme while attending skiing powerhouse Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont, where she graduated in 2013. She later moved back to Colorado.

They’re simply proud of her and her other Lyme-based teammate, cross-country skier Patrick Caldwell, for making it so far.

“It’s rare that you see that kind of talent,” Turkington said. “Lucky for them, they had parents who saw it and ran with it.

“There’s a feeling, I think, that they deserve it,” he continued.

A culture unto its own

Lyme, a town of 1,700 people several small roads off Interstate 89, is an ideal climate for young athletes to nurture Winter Olympic dreams.

Tami Dowd, who owns the Latham House Tavern along with the Dowds’s Country Inn, described Lyme’s multitudes of hidden small ponds and miles of trails for walking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing as a “quintessential New England town,” whose epicenter revolves around the Lyme School and the Common.

And then there’s the Dartmouth Skiway, a popular mountain where many Dartmouth athletes and local families get their turns in during the winter. The mountain is far from a bunny hill, with several expert level trails and a 968-foot drop.

Skiway general manager Doug Haller said the mountain, along with local skiing group Ford Sayre Memorial Council, has seen some of the world’s top athletes on its slopes.

But it’s still wild to see Shiffrin’s success.

“I think everyone here is talking about it, a little bit,” he said. “It’s something to see someone you remember skiing when they were just knee high to make it like that.”

Being active and outdoors is more than a winter distraction, said Lyme School principal and superintendent Jeff Valence. It’s a way of being.

“Most families here probably have more skis than they do TVs,” he said. “My kids will just put their skis on their shoulders and walk over to the Skiway to ski, but also sometimes to just hang out.”

It’s this environment that Leib thinks makes so many great skiers. “Kids who grow up here ski in different conditions,” he said. “They learn to ski on ice, they don’t know anything different. We may not have the biggest mountains, but we have the most versatility.”

Dowd said the whole town has been energized by Shiffrin’s success and have been congregating at the tavern to watch her race. To mark the occasion, the Tavern will be introducing two drink specials – the Shiffrin Alpine and the Cross Country Caldwell.

“When she raced on Wednesday, the whole room was like, ‘Wow.’ The energy in the room, I can’t explain it,” she said. “The whole community has been coming together around it, even if she’s nowhere nearby.”

Shiffrin’s finish Thursday was a hiccup in the 22-year-old’s otherwise stellar career. She won the slalom gold at the age of 18 at the 2014 Sochi Olympics; she won three consecutive world championships in that event; she had a five-race winning streak in January; she is on pace for a second overall World Cup title.

There’s also a quiet pride about town for Patrick Caldwell, whose father Tim Caldwell is a former World Cup Racer and long-time Lyme resident. Caldwell also competed in Pyeongchang, placing 51st in the men’s 15 km skiathlon. Prior to that, he’s placed high in several U.S. tours, skied internationally for Stratton Mountain School and made a name for himself with the U.S. Ski Team.

But to locals, Caldwell (who is called “Paddy” more often than not) and Shiffrin are still hometown kids who made it big. When Shiffrin visited Lyme School in November 2016 after winning several World Cup races and a reindeer, Valence made note of the occasion in the Lyme School newsletter.

“We’re obviously proud of them, but it’s about more than what they’ve accomplished,” Valence said. “Paddy is just a good kid, and Mikaela is one of the sweetest kids you can meet. We’re proud of them because of who they are.”

(Material from the Associated Press and the Valley News was used in this report. Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)