Eagle County will be well represented at Youth Olympics
EAGLE — For an event that only invites one person per sport per gender per country, Eagle County will be well represented in the 2016 Youth Olympic Games.
The Youth Olympic Games take place in Norway Feb. 12-21, in many of the same venues that were used in the 1994 Olympic Games. Dubbed the greatest innovation of the International Olympic Committee since the Winter Olympics were launched in 1924, the Youth Olympic Games this year will be complete with an Olympic Village, part of a more than $10 million dollar investment from the International Olympic Committee.
From here in Eagle County, River Radamus will represent the U.S. in the alpine ski racing portion of the games. Radamus, an up-and-coming U.S. Ski Team member, is the youngest athlete on the national team’s development squad. He’ll be heading over to Lillehammer with snowboarders Jake Pates and Rakai Tait and freeskier Paula Cooper.
Cooper knows Radamus from her ski racing days, before she started flying high out of the halfpipe, and knows Pates and Tait from class at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy. She’ll also have another friend in attendance, slopestyle snowboarder Nik Baden, from Steamboat.
“It’s so crazy how many athletes from our area are going,” she said. “I’m just excited to embrace the whole experience.”
Eleven hundred young athletes from the age of 15 to 18 from 70 nations will compete in 70 medal events at the Youth Olympic Games, according to the International Olympic Committee, and during the Games, 900 athletes will live in the village. The official rules state that all athletes must be present in the Lillehammer region all 10 days the Games last.
Not a problem, says Pates.
“There will be all the winter sports you can think of at the venue,” Pates said. “Hockey, curling, cross country skiing, all right there in the area. I’m really excited to check everything out.”
WESTON IN NORWAY
Pates, Cooper and Tait will compete in the halfpipe in the Oslo Vinterpark. Pates and Tait will actually compete against each other, as Tait will be competing for New Zealand, where he has dual citizenship along with the U.S., which Pates will represent in the halfpipe.
“It’s crazy, Jake and I both live in Eagle,” Tait said. “And we’ll get to compete against each other on the other side of the world.”
Pates is a lifelong Eagle resident. Tait moved to Eagle a couple of seasons ago.
“My family moved us here so we could focus more on snowboarding,” he said. “My parents have been so supportive of me and my brother, getting us out here so we could train on 22-foot superpipes and all the opportunity the Vail area has to offer.”
Now a full-on local, Tait is sponsored by Minturn-based Weston Snowboards, and will be flying high out of the Oslo halfpipe on a Weston.
“We’re really excited for him,” Weston owner Barry Clark said. “He’s a good kid with a lot of talent.”
VALUES OF OLYMPISM
The International Olympic Committee says its vision for the Youth Olympic Games is to encourage young people around the world to practice sports, raise awareness of Olympism and encourage them to adopt the values of Olympism and disseminate the message of the Olympic movement around them.
The scene will feel a lot like the actual Olympics, only with a younger core.
“Some of these people will win medals in the Olympics later in life and be the greatest athletes in the world,” the International Olympic Committee writes on the Youth Olympics website, http://www.lillehammer2016.com. “In Lillehammer, the spectators will have a chance to see them first, before everyone else.”
The spectators will be 30,000 school children from Norway.
“The regular Olympics are a goal I have in mind, as well, and I think this will feel similar so it’s really cool they’re setting this all up for us,” Cooper said.
Above all else, though, Cooper said she’s looking forward to one element of the Games in particular.
“I can’t wait to ski as best as I can for my country,” she said.