Outdoor Adventures: Crossing paths with those on the stage
These are the days when moms, dads, neighbors, classmates, teachers, that guy whose name you don’t know and others look up at the big screen and say something like, “He was always talented as a young skier. You could see he was going to be fast.”
That’s what Howie Weymss said to me the other day about Olympic biathlete Sean Doherty. Doherty lives a few miles from me as the crow flies. His father once guided me and others on a wicked winter Presidential traverse that turned into a Presidential reverse. I remember Sean, now 18, competing at cyclocross at Great Glen Trails where Weymss is the general manager and Doherty learned to ski.
Over the years, to parents they’ve been the kids in the carpool. The ones over for the overnight. The ones who, well, you knew they had something special.
So please forgive me for indulging as it appears this 2014 Olympics in Sochi is something of a crossroads for many in snowsports. I’ve crossed paths with them, too. Not that the athletes remember. They had more important stuff to do.
Of course, there is the iconoclastic Bode Miller. During his connection with Bretton Woods, where he still has a home (and you can rent it), he was often trotted out say 10 or so years ago for interviews. It’s likely he wanted to be elsewhere, but it’s the job. Though he went off on tangents often, his offbeat lifestyle back then made him engaging, something continued to this day.
Hannah Kearney, the Sochi bronze mogul medalist from the Upper Valley is refreshingly honest. The 2010 Olympic gold medal winner is an upfront, well-spoken woman who always answered my questions with candor. Bright and forthcoming, whatever is next for her, whether it be from a textbook or in the kitchen which grounds her, she will most certainly fly high. Then again, the World Cup awaits … and then some.
Burke Mountain Academy cross-country ski grad Liz Stephen actually called to thank me for a story I wrote. When does that ever happen? Fellow BMA skier Ida Sargent is someone I learned about through her parents. We met a few years ago when my wife, Jan, and I thought it would be cool to mountain bike Vermont top to bottom on mainly dirt roads. I sent out a few emails to people I thought might have suggestions. Next thing, I hear from her parents in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. They invite us over for dinner. On the walls are photos of their children, all three Dartmouth skiers.
The storyline for Lindsey Jacobellis since her Olympic silver medal win in 2006 is one of redemption and she’s handled it like a pro. Remember, she’s also got loads of X Games and World Cup hardware. I first met a humbled Alex Deibold (Seth Wescott and Ross Powers were there, too) at a World Cup snowboardcross race at Sunday River in 2009 and spoke with a young Jackie Hernandez by phone last year before she took her first runs at the Sochi World Cup.
North Conway’s Leanne Smith has always had time to talk, but I see her mom more in the bank where she’s a teller.
Last April while at Mammoth Mountain in California, my wife and I were in a lift line when I saw a skier wearing an accessory I knew was made in Vermont. I asked her about it, and next thing you know we started chatting with this young lady. She was Julia Ford, making her Olympic debut in Sochi after starting at Okemo and later attending the Holderness School. She chatted amiably when she learned we were from New Hampshire.
Over the years, Hannah Teter has made time to talk, and so has Kelly Clark, the 2014 bronze medal winner. I first met Kelly back when the X Games were at Mount Snow. But it was there at Mammoth, when we got off the lift to the summit, that I heard Kelly was there, too.
I saw her, approached and introduced myself. Oh, she said, we talk on the phone all the time.
Though it’s wonderful to write these words and cross paths, Olympians are first people. Much of their best is done away from the cameras and microphones when they stop to take time with respecting fans. It’s when they show up at their home mountains, sometimes unannounced, and spend time with young skiers and riders with golden aspirations.
Now that’s the carpool spirit.
(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com.)