John F. Russell: No failure in falling short
January 24, 2010
This is a bittersweet week in Steamboat Springs.
While some athletes are celebrating being named to the U.S. Olympic teams this week, others will fall short of that goal.
For those athletes, there will be no celebration, no shot at Olympic glory, no trip to Vancouver, British Columbia — unless they buy their own ticket.
"That's what makes the Olympics so special," snowboarder Erica Mueller said. "Only the best of the best get to go … a lot of it has to do with the timing. This just wasn't my time."
Mueller's Olympic dreams came to an end earlier this winter.
The Alpine snowboarder had hoped to get off to a fast start on the World Cup, but nagging shin splints hampered her performance. She lost her World Cup spot after the Telluride World Cups and lost her shot at the Olympics.
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Mueller said she was prepared for the disappointment. She lived through a similar situation in 2006 and already had plans to work in the marketing department at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, which her family owns.
"I think it's different for each situation," Mueller said about not making the Olympic cut. "For me, it was quite liberating. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders."
But like she said, her case is different than most.
The Olympic selection process is pretty simple. The best athletes in the days leading up to the games will be invited. Those who don't perform will not be asked to represent the United States — but they are welcome to try again in four years.
"I'm ready to move on," Mueller said. "I think you have to recognize your accomplishments and take pride in what you've done. I know that I'm a great snowboarder, and I'm still a great snowboarder even if I didn't make it to the Olympics. It just wasn't meant to be."
The fact is that for every athlete who will be named to an Olympic team this year, many others will not.
Some will think they failed, but that's not the case. Mueller and those in her situation should hold their heads up. Their stories are as much a part of Steamboat's Olympic heritage as those who have succeeded.
In the fall, we identified 23 athletes who had dreams of becoming Olympians. The truth is that there are more.
During the next week, I'm expecting a small percentage of those athletes to actually be named to an Olympic team. The rest won't make it, but they have pushed other athletes by pushing the limits. It's their efforts that make us all realize just how good Olympic athletes are and what it takes to make it to the games.
The road to the Olympics is not easy, and it shouldn't be. Maybe that's why our town takes so much pride in the athletes who have represented us at the games and the things they have accomplished on the Olympic stage.