300 kids chase Olympic dreams, soda pop
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There was no stopping four-year-old Flynn Oslowski as he made his way to the lift Friday, less than a half hour before the start of the Christy Sports Soda Pop Slalom.
“He sure thinks he is going to,” his mom, Laura Oslowski said when asked if he was gong to win. “He wants to.”
Of course all of the more than 300 young ski racers who showed up to take part in the annual Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival event are winners. When the ski racers cross the finish line at the end of the race, they don’t get an official time, but they do get a goodie bag filled with sunglasses, Honey Stinger waffles, a reusable hand warmer, a fake mustache and of course a soda pop.
“This is our first year doing the Soda Pop Slalom,” Oslowski said. “We just wanted to be a part of the Steamboat tradition. He is super pumped. He was up before all of us dressed in his ski clothes and ready to go.”
Every year, hundreds of children from Steamboat and other places come to the base of this ski area for this one-of-a-kind event. There are no winners, but longtime ski area employee, Roger Perricone said this is where you find future Olympians.
“They are having fun, that’s big,” Perricone said. “You never know which of these kids are going to make it to the top.”
One of the skiers he watched was Jett Seymour, who is a member of the U.S. Ski Team, and skis for the University of Denver.
His mother, Blair was on hand to help run Friday’s race for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, and she still remembers the first time the freshman with the University of Denver Ski Team raced in his first Soda Pop Slalom.
“We told him to follow the line, and we had the line to right before the finish line,” Blair said. “The line went a foot before the timing, and he stopped.”
Jett has come a long way. On Wednesday, he raced to 10th place at the FIS Junior World Championships in Davos, Switzerland — proof that he has learned to stop after the finish line in the past 14 years.
But many of the racers in Friday’s Soda Pop Slalom were focused on things far more important than simply winning or posting a personal best result.
“It’s fun because it’s not a real race,” said Owen Park who was competing in the 9- to 10-year-old division this year. “Oh yeah, and you get a treat at the end.”
Park has been racing since he was 3, and said he enjoyed going up against his friends and other people on the slalom course.
The meaning of the race was not lost on Jane Howell who watched her children race and was there Friday to watch her grandchildren.
“It’s awesome,” Howell said. “Through the years you watch everyones kids — I mean this is joy, this is joy.”
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