John F. Russell: The waiting game

Isn’t it sad that the Winter Olympics come around only once every four years?

I’m not sad for the hundreds of athletes who will travel to Italy next month. They get to pursue their sports dreams 365 days a year, every year. They understand the emotions of winning and losing and how much work and sacrifice goes into winning a medal.

I’m sad for the rest of us, who think the Winter Olympics are confined to two chilly weeks every four years.

Sure, there’s a small percentage of people who understand the intricacies of Winter Olympic sports; there are those who follow the World Cup; and there even are a handful of people who understand there is no difference between Turin and Torino.

Let’s face it, most of the people tuning in to the Olympics are not diehard followers of Nordic combined, ski jumping or freestyle skiing.

They are sparked by the spectacle that surrounds the Games, the history that drives them and the emotions that fuel the athletes.

But thanks to the magic of TV, American sports fans are treated to a crash course in the basics of winter sports once every four years.

It’s a rare opportunity for a nation addicted to football, basketball, baseball and hockey.

Of course, we want to watch to see how the Amer–icans will fare in hockey and figure skating. And who doesn’t want to watch Bode Miller rip down a frozen Alpine course?

The Olympics give us a glimpse into sports such as speed skating, bobsledding and curling.

For a few days, these athletes are treated to the attention of an international audience, something they truly deserve because they pursue athletics for the love of sport, not a desire for money.

The top athletes at the 2006 Winter Games will have a brief moment to wrap up their entire careers — knowing that by the end of February, the spotlight, the chance for glory and all that attention will fade faster than the colors of an American flag in the hot desert sun.

In Steamboat, we are lucky enough to feel like a part of many of these athletes’ careers, even in non-Olympic years.

If you’ve lived in Steamboat, you’ve most likely bumped into an Olympian at the grocery store, and that athlete with the medal around his neck just might be the child who grew up down the street.

Some of us even have witnessed the years of hard work it takes to get to the Olympics.

In the next few weeks, I will be rooting for Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes such as Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane, Billy Demong, Clint Jones, Tommy Schwall, Travis Mayer, Jana Lindsay, Tyler Jewell, Johanna Shaw and Philippe Berube.

But I also will be rooting for all the other athletes in Steamboat Springs who are dedicating their lives to following in those athlete’s footsteps.

Two weeks, once every four years just isn’t enough time.

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