When the world looks at the best athletes on the planet gathered for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia; they will be looking at quite a few Park City and Utah locals.
The Sochi Games start Friday, February 7, and continue until February 23rd—sixteen days of glory. Nearly 60 locals—59, to be exact—make up the the U. S. Olympic delegation of 230 athletes.
Of those, at least seven are medal favorites. Emily Cook, freestyle skiing, is having a banner year. Shani Davis, speedskater, has been the fastest man on the planet in the 1000 meter discipline for two Olympics. Bill Demong, in his fifth Olympics for Nordic Combined (ski jumping and cross country racing) is one of the world’s top athletes in his sport, Sarah Hendrickson is the new young phenom in women’s ski jumping, which makes its debut this Olympics. Steve Holcomb is so dominant in bobsled that he’s likely to win his second Olympic gold medal. Ted Ligety, alpine skiing, has ruled Giant Slalom races all season. Noelle Pikus-Pace, skeleton, has finally been winning after a streak of discouraging bad luck that started before the 2006 Olympics, when a runaway bobsled shattered her lower leg.
There are even more local athletes who are potential Olympic medal winners—possibly more than have ever competed from any one city or state in Olympic history.
Then there is Erik Schlopy, Marny Schlopy’s son. Married to multi-Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalist Summer Sanders, Erik is a three-time Olympian who competed for the U. S. ski team for 14 years, retiring in 2008.
Now he is part of the coaching staff working to create more Olympic medalists. Erik was hired as an assistant technical coach by the ski team in August, working with the slalom and giant slalom athletes.
According to USSA, he says, “Ski racing is just in your blood and you can’t change that.” Erik and Summer are already in Sochi, where training for the Olympic races is underway.
During the 2002 Salt Lake Games, both Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley were venues for skiing and snowboard events that drew the attention of the whole world. Now the world’s attention will again be drawn to Park City and to Utah, as a place which produces not only top attractions, but an amazing group of the best athletes—and coaches—on earth.