Steamboat celebrates the community that has raised many an Olympian
Steamboat Springs celebrated Olympians past and present and the community that has consistently raised them on Saturday, Feb. 5, at the base of Howelsen Hill.
Skip Dierdorff, father of 2022 Olympian Mick Dierdorff, offered a story to the crowd of a couple hundred demonstrating the perfect example of such hometown support. Earlier this winter, his son left Steamboat for Russia for his final Olympic qualifying event of the season. Dierdorff made it to Europe, but his luggage did not. So his mother, Mary, got to work calling people she knew at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, who proceeded to call people they knew at Denver International Airport, where Mick changed planes.
That process got nowhere, so a woman at YVRA named Deb Smith got on a plane to DIA and found the bags in the “bowels of DIA, where it would have remained entombed,” if it hadn’t been for “Team Steamboat,” as Skip put it.
Penny Fletcher, mother of 2022 Olympian Taylor Fletcher, literally tossed away her notes about what it took to get not only one of her sons, but two of them to the Olympics and opted to say something short and sweet.
“Basically what it boils down to, is all you out there,” she said, motioning to the crowd.
Parents of Fletcher, Dierdorff, snowboarder Taylor Gold, ski jumper Decker Dean, Nordic combined skier Jasper Good and Alpine snowboarder Cody Winters were also in attendance, commenting on their children and the efforts required to help them achieve their dreams
“If you live in this town,” said Ken Gold, “you can be an Olympian.”
The evening began with its own opening ceremony of sorts. There was a parade of nations, courtesy of young Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club members, skiing flags down the face of Howelsen Hill.
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Executive Director Sarah Floyd spoke for all event organizers when she took to the stage to kickoff the evening.
“The path to the Olympics is a long road. You never know exactly what lights the fire in someone to dream to get to the Olympics,” Floyd said. “It could be — looking at the flags in Olympian Hall — It could be an event like this.”
In a video of clips with some of the 2022 Olympians, moguls skier Olivia Giaccio said it was the flags in Olympian Hall that not only deepened her desire to reach the Olympics, but made her realize it was a very real goal.
All the athletes agreed that it wasn’t just the Winter Sports Club, but also the schools, their parents, their peers and the thick atmosphere of success in Steamboat Springs that helped them accomplish their dreams.
“I got to thank the entire community. With what they have done to build such a good community around sports is unparalleled to anything else in the world.”
The evening concluded with a now 20-year tradition: the lighting of the community cauldron. Ben Berend, 2018 Nordic combined Olympian, skied down Howelsen Hill holding a torch.
“When Sarah asked me do it, you don’t say no to that,” Berend said. “It was fun. It was a good experience.”
Berend was joined by local legend Ray Heid, and, together, they lifted the torch to the cauldron.
As the small flame caught and abruptly illuminated the cauldron, perhaps, as Floyd suggested, a spark was lit inside someone in attendance, putting yet another Steamboat athlete on the path to the Olympics.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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