5 Top Memories from My Four Trips to The Olympic Games
I've had the distinct honor of being an Olympic Team physician for the past 4 Winter Olympic Games. This time around, I made the decision not to attend the games. The USOC usually puts a 2-Olympics limit on physicians. But I was very blessed and honored to continue to serve the team for all these years.
This year, our U.S. Women's team is in great hands with my good friend Dr. Jeff Harrison. Jeff is an outstanding physician and surgeon.
For the first time in a long time, I'm ready to enjoy the Olympics as a spectator rather than a participant. Usually, I take a few moments to reflect and speculate on what will happen during the next two weeks. We can never predict the future, but there is ALWAYS a big, dramatic story waiting to pop.
The real heroes are the athletes. So let's all enjoy rooting on Mikaela, Lindsey, Shaun, and all USSA performers. I can't wait to see what they have in store for us!
This year, I had the luxury of waiting for the opening ceremonies next to a cozy fire here with my computer. Anybody who watched the opening ceremonies Friday night saw the pride of our athletes.
There is nothing like international athletic competition to bring together camaraderie and completion. It is what our Greek forebears saw many years ago. I can’t wait to watch what these next two weeks unfolds for us all.
In the meantime I'm going to share my top 5 personal memories of the Olympic games.
1. Marching in the Opening Ceremonies - Whistler 2010
The highlight of my career may very well be marching in the opening ceremonies during the 2010 games. The pageantry, the spectacle, and the pure display of national pride. Some memories fade, but I'll never forget what that felt like!
2. Tough as Nails - Torino 2006.
Torino 2006. We airlifted one of our top racers after she crashed during downhill training. I flew in the helicopter with her to the trauma hospital (45 minutes away in Torino).
Nobody spoke English, except an American student working as a barista in the hospital! We stayed overnight in the hospital, monitoring pain medication while ensuring WADA compliancy.
She raced 48 hours after admittance to the hospital. Talk about being tough as nails. You might be able to guess which racer that was ;)
3. Downhill Training Run debacle - Salt Lake 2002
This was 4 months after 9/11, so security was beyond tight. I was young and brand new to the Olympic scene. We actually had to leave our skis off and stand on the steepest pitch on the course. What happened next was...interesting.
I slipped while handing a start list to one of the Italian coaches. No biggie right? Well, I slid 150 yards down the hill, across the course and into the netting. Ouch.
I heard one of our coaches say into the radio “Did I see what I thought I saw?” Super embarrassing. And it could have been disastrous if a racer had been coming down.
You learn very early to NEVER move once a racer is on course. My own personal incident could have well made the ESPN lowlight bloopers segment.
4. Village Training - Whistler 2010
The Olympic Athlete's Village in Whistler was a cool experience. Staying in one Village were the ski jumpers (all very light), the bobsledders, (NFL-sized), and the Alpine Ski racers.
Watching the way each of these athletes trained for their sport was fascinating. The ski jumpers never stopped doing plyometrics and jumps. The bobsledders were squatting more weight than I had seen before. While it was raining in the athlete village, athletes did wind sprints outside in the slush and mud.
Talk about dedication.
5. Mikaela in the Zone - Sochi 2014
We’ve all seen athletes who are “in the zone”. Michael Jordan scoring 63 points, Joe Montana completing 22 straight passes. Rarely are we are fortunate enough to have a behind-the-scenes look into this.
In 2014 Mikaela was 18 years old and leading the slalom after the first run. At the top of the course, 10 minutes before her second run, you could see her step 50 yards away from everybody. You could tell she was visualizing the whole course and picturing herself skiing the run.
In rain, on a slow course, she slayed it, coming down and clinching the Gold. It was one of the most impressive insights into a very mature 18 year old athlete on the rise. It was the most effective pre-race focus regimen I have ever seen. And one of the reasons Mikaela may one day be our most accomplished skier.
Enjoy the Olympics! I know I will.