John F. Russell: Olympic trials bring games to Steamboat |

John F. Russell: Olympic trials bring games to Steamboat

I know the three events scheduled for December in Steamboat Springs are not the Olympics, but they might be the closest most Steamboat residents get to the games without dipping into a 401(k) account.

If you are one of those people in Colorado who love the Winter Olympic Games, the U.S. freestyle and Nordic combined Olympic trials are kind of like an early Christmas present.

For two days, Dec. 23 and 24, all the action, the athletes and emotion of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games will be represented in Steamboat Springs – a little town with a mountain of Olympic spirit.

There is no reason to drop $1,000 a night on a hotel room in Whistler or book a flight to Vancouver International Airport. Instead, just head to Howelsen Hill and the slopes of Steamboat Ski Area, and soak up the atmosphere that’s sure to ignite an Olympic spirit all its own.

I understand that the events will not be covered by thousands of journalists from around the world, but you can bet there will be more than a few in town to record all the highlights.

I also understand that the Steamboat event will be missing the top international athletes that make the Olympic Games an international spectacle. But the fact is that many of the athletes competing in Steamboat are the same ones you will be cheering for in February.

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As far as emotion, the Olympic trials are sure to have plenty of that. No, the athletes will not be competing for gold, silver or bronze. However, they will be competing for the chance to earn a shot at one of those precious medals. In a time of uncertainty for most elite athletes in the United States, the Olympic trials offer them a chance to punch their tickets to compete at the Olympics before everyone else.

The trials will offer five athletes – one in men’s moguls, one in women’s moguls, one in men’s aerials, one in women’s aerials and a Nordic combined skier – a chance to relax a bit in the days leading up to the Olympics. Most of the athletes hoping to represent the U.S. Ski Team in Vancouver will have to wait until the Olympic teams are officially named. The athletes who win in Steamboat can get in line to be fitted for their Olympic Team jackets.

I’m hoping thousands will come out to watch the mogul and Nordic combined events Dec. 23 and the aerial event Dec. 24. I can’t think of a better way for Steamboat Springs to display its Olympic heritage than having thousands of cheering fans packing the venues when the events are televised on NBC at 2:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Dec. 26.

Yes, it’s true that Steamboat may not have an Olympic venue, but that doesn’t mean our town can’t be a part of the Olympic spirit.