A hometown non-athlete’s role at the Winter Olympics | VailDaily.com

A hometown non-athlete’s role at the Winter Olympics

Shauna Farnell

How lucky does somebody have to be to have accomplished no rare athletic feats whatsoever and still get to go to the Winter Olympics?

Swift Newpapers, Inc. ” the company that owns and operates the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, the Glenwood Post, Aspen Times, Summit Daily, Grand Junction Free Press a bunch of other Colorado mountain weekly papers and a large pack of dailies and weeklies around Lake Tahoe in Nevada and California ” is sending one reporter to the Winter Games next month in Torino, Italy.

I made a delightful spaghetti dinner for our executives and landed the job.

(Actually, it might have something to do with my five years of writing sports stories and following the World Cup).

The decision to send someone stemmed from the fact that a number of the alpine Olympians originate or reside in Swift’s coverage areas. Some of the athletes qualified for the 2006 Games include Lindsey Kildow, who skied with Ski Club Vail for many years and claims Vail as her home mountain; Daron Rahlves from Truckee, Calif., (home of Swift’s Sierra Sun), who has won three World Cup downhill events this season including the Beaver Creek Birds of Prey race; and Kate Uhlaender, the skeleton racer from Summit County who, after beginning her career in the sport just three years ago, was the first woman to qualify for the 2006 Olympic Skeleton Team. Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler, Winter X Games superpipe champion will be throwing her crippler (an inverted snowboarding trick) in the Bardonecchia (Italian Olympic halfpipe venue) pipe and Vail’s Toby Dawson just qualified for the U.S. Olympic Moguls Team.

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It seems to be just par for the course that when athletes from dozens of nations come together to compete, there has to be some sort of drama (See bloodbath in Munich, 1972, Nancy Kerrigan attack previous to Lillehammer in ’94, sexual harassment charges against skeleton coach and Bode Miller antics going into this year’s Games …)

Because drama ” or, getting away from it ” is what compelled me switch from news reporting to sports (one of the best decisions of my life) after the Sept. 11 events in 2001, I hope the competition stays as pure as possible next month, because that’s what I’m there to focus on ” the personal glory, pain and suspense our athletes undergo while they live their Olympic dreams.

While the hockey and skating events will take place in Torino ( “Turin” in English. I feel the need to practice the Italian version as frequently as possible, as it is one of the 20 Italian words I know so far), the alpine events will take place at various resort venues in the Alps surrounding the city on the Italian-French border.

I’m going to be running around like a one-woman circus trying to catch up with as many of our athletes as possible. The reality of going to the Games hasn’t completely possessed me yet. There is still an element of disbelief, despite having received my credential (which, honestly, looks like it was made at Kinko’s), getting the laptop dialed in and finding a backpack that I can ski from venue to venue with, transporting the laptop (not to mention harmonica, trombone, unicycle and other materials).

The excitement and belief will set in, I think, when I land in Torino on Feb. 5. And, as Dawson told me on the phone during an interview a few days ago, “at least your work is cut out for you.”

Even while I transform into the human reporting whirlwind, I must remember to heed Dawson’s advice: “Take time to enjoy it.”

That part, I’m sure, will come easily.

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