Fans capture Olympic experience at downhill race
Many crowded the venue to cheer on all skiers, not just their country's
February 17, 2010
Whistler, British Columbia — If you looked somewhere in the middle of the thousands of screaming fans at Whistler Creekside this morning, you would find Arnold Blinn and his wife, Leslie Brewer, of Seattle, waving flags and enjoying the high-speed thrills and spills of downhill ski racing.
There was no question which team they were here to cheer for, dressed in an assortment of red, white and blue garb and waving American flags. But the funny thing is that they were ringing cowbells and yelling for all the ski racers, not just the Americans.
"We came up to enjoy the Olympics for a week," Blinn said. "We are having a good time, going to a lot of events and seeing a lot of things. But so far this has been the best event because we are currently No. 1 and No. 2."
Blinn was not alone at the downhill venue, where fans from every country cheered for the women no matter what country they represented. Everywhere you looked there were flags, shirts and even a few foam fingers representing different countries at the Winter Olympic Games. But in the end they were all here for one thing: the high-speed action of the downhill.
"We are here to cheer for Britt (Janyk) and Emily (Brydon)," Canadian ski fan Darren Barek said. "But we like the Canadians in general."
Barek was excited to watch American ski racer Lindsey Vonn and hoped she would be able to overcome her latest injury in the event.
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"She's the best in the world, so if she can do it on a sore shin, then all the power to her," Barek said. "She's the best in the world, and I'm glad she's competing."
Vonn didn't disappoint Barek and his friends, who stood at the bottom of the hill in the general admission area. She brought the Olympic spirit to a head with her gold-medal run. It also didn't hurt that she finished just ahead of her teammate Julia Mancuso, who earned the silver. Sure, maybe Barek was pulling for the Canadians, but he couldn't complain about the quality of ski racing or the action on the hill, which was a mixture of fast runs and high-speed spills.
For Don Dahlgren, of Seattle, the event was a chance to take in the Olympic experience with his 9-year-old grandson, Beck, who traveled with a friend from Montana to see the Olympic downhill with his grandfather. Dahlgren bought the tickets last fall when they were first made available in the United States. They had also brought about foam fingers and cowboy hats and enough enthusiasm to fill the entire day.
"This is a very big thing, and being able to attend the Olympics with my grandchildren is a very exciting thing for us," Dahlgren said.
It was an experience that included $3 Coca-Cola, $7 beers and $100-plus tickets for seating. But for the fans who showed up, this was a chance to be among the thousands who filled the venue and witnessed the Olympic downhill firsthand. For the Americans, it was a chance to see U.S. Ski Team members take two of the three spots on the podium for the first time since 1984.