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Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion

So what has been going on since I stopped writing back in January? Well, let me fill you in...

Today I participated in a pre-Olympic warm-up race in Sun Valley. I got my butt kicked by Muehlegg and company, but it was fun to be other there will those guys.

I skied pretty well in today's BMT, but I was handicapped by a bad start. Off the line, I was in about 10th place. Exactly where I wanted to be. Then on an easy straight downhill, I was gliding in a tuck right beside another skier, shoulder to shoulder. All of a sudden a pair of skis, started to come up between us. There was no room for a person to fit through, but I know from experience that some people get overzealous in the start of big races, so I decided to move over to avoid confrontation. When the person got beside me, I saw that it was Jon Engen. Jon is a big guy and his size was carrying him down the hill at a fast clip. But then he did something that I assume was accidental, but still catastrophic to my race. As his foot was exactly next to my ski tips, he put in a big skate move, pushing my left ski tip underneath my right as his leg extended into my space. I was helpless to avoid it. As I tried to recover, I shot off to the right, out of the flow of traffic, on my butt and sliding to a complete stop. By the time I got back up and going, at least 30 people had gone by. I spent the next three kilometers working really hard to catch the leaders. I did it, but just after I got there, someone put on a move and the pace picked up. I held on for a couple Ks but after my hard start, I couldn't keep it up for any longer. I dropped back a bit. I skied with a group including Colin Mahood and Eri Meyer and Eric Wilbrecht for five k, but the pace did not relent and I had to drop back. The worst part was that for the next 15K I was all by myself - staying ahead of the pack behind, but not fast enough to catch the pack ahead of me. The BMT is one race where skiing in a pack is MUCH MUCH easier than skiing alone. With 5K to go, I was caught by a group including Casey Ward, Pat Casey, Barry Makarewicz and Jon Engen. I skied with this group for the next few K's, I pulled at the front a bit, but I also used the time to rest for a sprint. After what happened at the start, there was no way I was going to let Engen beat me. With a K or two to go, I took the lead and saw that sprinter Pat Casey was at the back of the pack. It was my chance to get away. I cranked it up and sped off. I hammered all the way and held on to take 11th place. It was a bit disappointing because the lead pack was not that far ahead. I think that without the mishap at the beginning, I could have been up there.

After teh BMT, my focus turned to the Olympics. My own racing would be on hold for a few weeks while I soaked up this once-in-a0limetime experience to have the Olympics in my hometown.

Random Thoughts From The Olympics

Chances are, if you read this site regularly, you have already read everything I wrote about the Olympics on So you already know about all the races I went to, how I was "working as a wax technician" (which is code for "weaseled my way into a wax technician credential so that I could ski around on the course, take pictures, rub shoulders with the gods, and make all my friends jealous"), and the Olympics in general. So I won't bore you by rehashing all that stuff. Instead, these are a random collection of thoughts on my Olympic experience.

After training for so many years, hoping to make the Olympic team, I was afraid that the Olympics would be a bittersweet experience for me. I worried that it would be hard to watch the other athletes compete, while I was relegated to spectator. I know that some of my racing friends avoided the Olympics entirely because of that fear. During the Opening Ceremonies, it was had to watch at times, especially when I caught glimpses of the other skiers entering the stadium. But after that, the Olympics were simply too much fun to dwell on what might have been. The entire two weeks was a blast, and on many occasions I found myself thinking, "There is no way I could have experienced all this if I had to race." Now, would I trade it all for one race start in the Olympics? In a heartbeat. But having said that, it was still two of the best weeks of my life. On to more thoughts and statistics...

Total number of friends and family who stayed with us at somepoint during the games: 32

Number of former Dartmouth College ski teammates that I saw during the Olympics 24
Total number of teammates I had at Dartmouth over four years: 50 (estimate)

Top five highlights of the Games For Me:
1) Beckie Scott winning a bronze medal. I am getting goose bumps just typing those words. It was the most amazing sporting event I have ever witnessed. I was watching her sprint for the medal against Neumanova from my vantage point up on the last hill, where we had just cheered her on. Torbjorn (her coach and mine) was next to me. As they rounded the turn, Beckie was behind. Torbjorn, always the coach, said, "She's too far back. She needed to be closer." But as we watch, she turns on the jets and begins to catch the world's best skate sprinter. "She could do it!" I yelled. "No she's not closing fast enough" counters Torbjorn. Then she takes it up another notch just in time to cross the line right next to Neumanova. "I think she did it!" I yell. "Nope, fourth" says the coach. Even as other coaches on the hill are running up to Torbjorn to congratulate him, he still does not dare to believe. "Fourth" he keeps saying. Meanwhile, the officials have turned to the video to analyze the photo finish. I jump the fencing on the side of the trail and sprint all out down the hill to see the finish for myself on the big screen. They play it over and over. Even on the big screen you can't really tell, but for my money I say Beckie got it. A minute later, it comes up on the scoreboard: Beckie Scott: Bronze. The entire place erupts! Everyone is hugging everyone, I dare say that there was not a North American nordic skier in the venue who was not on the verge of tears.

A few minutes later at the finish, I see Justin Wadsworth, who was home sick in bed, but came out today because he just had a feeling about Beckie. I see Beckies parents crying and hugging all of Beckie's coaches and support team. I see Canadian coach Dave Wood trying to keep his composure long enough to do interviews. I see that Torbjorn is finally believing that he coached an Olympic medalist. "I can retire now," he says. And I see Beckie, who has her usual mile-wide smile, and is graciously holding court with every journalist in the venue. At that moment I remember thinking that no matter what happened for the rest of the Olympics, I already had enough memories to last a lifetime. And just should have been a Gold Medal. Image what that would have been like.

2) Now where was I -oh yeah - there were other memorable moments. Number two: Hanging out with Vegard Ulvang. One evening, Torbjorn, Erik and I got together with the Terminator himself (and his wife and baby daughter) to discuss our new website. When Torbjorn had mentioned to Vegard a few days earlier he became very excited to show us a program that he had worked on that could greatly expand the scope of our website. So one evening I went over to Vegard's house and picked up him and his family, and headed to Torbjorn's for a few hours. It was all I could do to drive those 8 short miles. I was so nervous. "OK, do not crash with Norway's National Hero in the car." Vegard was very friendly. He started asking me about my own skiing and was very curious about how I had done this season. Suddenly 11th place in a Continental Cup didn't sound so good when I was talking to a multiple Gold Medalist. After a few minutes, I felt like I was talking to a new friend, not a living legend. It was also very entertaining to see him as a family man, husband and father, rather than as an animal on the ski tracks. And -oh yeah - Per Eloffson's parents just happened to be there too.

3) The US Men's Relay. I have to admit that after Beckie's race, I think I got my hopes up ridiculously high for the relay. I was thinking medal. But even so, the team skied extremely well and was in the race the whole way. It was so great to see. All the American fans now had a real team to cheer for. And they did all that even though Justin probably wasn't at the top of his game. A stellar leg from Wadsworth and the US team is challenging Germany for that Bronze medal.

4) Our party. On the middle Saturday of the Olympics we hosted a party at our place. We had quite a turn out and it was great to see some faces walk through the door that I hadn't seen in ten years or so. Its amazing who shows up for the Olympics.

5) Meeting Bjorn Daehlie. It wasn't quite as personal as meeting Vegard, but when I shook hands and said hi to Bjorn on the eve of the Olympics, it was pretty cool. I was at his press conference and was debating whether I should walk up and say hi. Sure I wanted to, but what exactly do you say to the greatest skier of all-time? "Hi, you are my hero"? "Hi, I've had your picture on my door at home since I was 17"? "Hi, you retired because of a hurt back - you wuss." The last thing I wanted to do was bother the man just to say something he'd heard a million times before. Just as I was trying to figure out what I could say, he walked right over and introduced himself to me. Well, ok, he introduced himself to my girlfriend, but he said hi to me too. Which made it very easy to figure out what to say to him: "Hands off her, buddy, she's taken." Ok, not really, but if he had tried anything...

Other things I did:

Went to a Medals Ceremony, where I saw Bente Skari get her gold for the 10K Classic, along with a bunch of other events. In that race, I gave Bente a split at 8K that she was 11 seconds down. That's why she finished so strong. Macy Gray also performed, not at the race-at the Medal Ceremony. Also walked around the medals plaza and checked out all the cool sponsor tents.

Walked around Main St. Park City which was blocked off to traffic and checked out even more sponsors stuff. The store, the Coca Cola pin trading tent, the Jamaican Bobsled store. Walked right into the Roots store, which a few short hours later would have a line stretching halfway down the street with an average three hour wait. The line never let up for the next two weeks.

Watched Katie Couric and Matt Louer broadcast live from about a 1/4 mile from my house. Many times I thought about getting up early and going over there with a big sign that read: "Katie- Andrew Johnson Loves You" or "Let Lindsey Weir Race!" but I was just too busy.

Hung out with Nina Kemppel's family (and my good friend Denali) on the trails as Nina skied to her best Olympic finish ever in her final Olympic race, the 30K classic. It was a great race and it was wonderful to see how happy her whole family was for her to go out on top.

Went out to dinner with about 14 other Dartmouth skiers.

Hung out with my brother, his girlfriend and two other friends when the drove up from San Diego to watch the Men's relay.

Bought scalped tickets to said Relay for my brother and friends. Scalped tickets! For a cross country race!

Spent 45 minutes one morning hunting for all of my Olympic tickets which had mysteriously disappeared the night before during our big party. Eventually found them in a dumpster in our parking lot! Someone was not very careful when cleaning up for the party.

Got my picture taken:
With the Bud Light girls
In the futuristic Descente jackets that make you look like a space age bowling pin.
With Bjorn Daehlie
By a confused spectator

Watched the Opening Ceremonies on a big screen TV in a Shriner;s Hospital only two blocks from the Olympic Stadium. We were on a hill so we could see the stadium really well. Whenever they lit fireworks or the Torch, we'd run outside to see it live. The Olympic Torch also stopped by the hospital only half an hour before it entered the stadium. Way to go, me.

Saw the Olympic Torch run right by my house.

Watched Hirioki Imai of Japan ski to seventh place in the 50K classic. Only a few weeks ago I placed a close second to Hirioki in a Wasatch Citizen Series race, so I figure I could have finished 8th in the 50.

Went to the first event of the games: the Ski Jumping qualifying that was canceled because of high winds.

Turned down tickets to see the women's downhill because my schedule was already booked (the race ended up being postponed anyway).

Went to a women's luge race. FYI: Luge is much better on TV, although it is cool to see them whiz by if you are right next to the track.

Watched live fireworks almost every night from the comfort of my living room.

Ran into a fellow competitor from my childhood downhill racing days at Cannon Mountain. His name is Bode Miller. Maybe you've heard of him. Just a side note: I used to beat him when he was much younger. I've got a trophy from the Frostbite Follies to prove it.

For my girlfriend's birthday (Feb 20th) she and I did something very special: we sat at home and did nothing. It was the only day of the whole Olympics that we could relax. We sat on the couch and watched the events on TV al day. It was beautiful.

Saw NBC's coverage of the men's relay on the huge screen in the middle of the Medals Plaza. The place was packed with people coming and going, but we were the only ones in the whole place who even stopped to watch Alsgaard and Zorzi play cat and mouse and then sprint for the gold. It was cool to see it in that venue, but it wasn't cool that we were the only two who cared.

Started a campaign to rid the world of evil Roots Berets (a Beret? Are we the American team or French team?) - until my Mom said she wanted one. Then I dutifully got a hold of one and sent it home.

I'm sure I will be adding to this list at some point. This is all stuff I just thought of off the top of my head. Now, the hard part: getting back into racing after a month off... On to March!

© 2003 Cory Smith. All Rights Reserved.