Officials today announced plans for the upcoming Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid.
The 39th annual winter sports event that introduces young people to Olympic-style competition will feature more than 30 sports events at venues across the Adirondack region. Games Director Molly Mayer says it combines old and new winter sports at multiple venues. “The Olympic Center has speed skating, figure skating, squirt hockey. Our oval right down the street has long track speed skating. Mount van Hoevenburg has our bobsled, luge, skeleton, biathalon, cross-country. The ski jumps obviously have ski jumping and Nordic combined. Whiteface has our alpine, our moguls, our ski and snowboard cross. In Saranac Lake Dewey Mountain hosts our cross-country race. And one of the new things this year is we’ve opened an age bracket 7 to 11 for kids to participate in a 1K freestyle race. Paul Smith’s will host snowshoeing and a new event this year e-sports. Yes I see your face back there – an interesting addition to the games this year.”
Mayer admits that the addition of e-sports is somewhat controversial. “I’ve gotten a lot of questions about it. E-sports is a huge emerging market. Whether or not people like it or not colleges are offering scholarships for it. NHL, NBA, NFL teams they have leagues. There’s professional athletes making millions and millions of dollars playing these games. The Olympic Committee is considering it. So for us it’s a unique opportunity to leverage the assets we have here in the Adirondacks.”
She also reports that after successfully growing the Empire State Winter Games torch run last year, organizers are again expanding it. “They’ve done the torch relay consistently in the past and it started as just something in the Adirondack Park. Last year they took the torch all the way from New York City up to the Adirondacks. This year we’ve added a whole ‘nother route going from Buffalo to the Adirondacks. So Buffalo and New York City both simultaneously kicking off on Sunday January 27th and they’ll be converging in Malone on the 31st and traveling down to the opening ceremony.”
Many Empire State Winter Games athletes have advanced to World Cup and Olympic competition. Olympians Emily Sweeney and Andrew Weibrecht both competed in the Empire State Winter Games. Sweeney: “I do remember competing in the Empire State Games. And actually prior to that it’s exciting to me to hear that you’re opening up to 7 to 11-year olds for some things because I remember being here and being too young to compete first and missing out on that. I was super bummed. But then the next year I was here again and could compete. And it was just a really special experience for me. Besides the Olympics that’s the only other time that I’ve had an experience like that. It’s very much like the Olympics.”
Andrew Weibrecht adds: “They’re at a stage where they have so much potential ahead of them and in some respects I’m in a unique position to show them: this is where I was. I was literally where you are at your age and if it’s something that you really care about doing then you should absolutely pursue that.”
The Empire State Winter Games begin January 31st and run through February 3rd.