The closing ceremonies of the 2018 winter Olympics are Sunday and the athletes will return home with medals and memories. Communities in our region are planning to celebrate the local athletes who competed in a number of sports.
Nineteen athletes from New York state are competing at the winter Olympics. Many hail from or have trained in northern New York. They include Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke of Lake Placid and Maddie Phaneuf of Old Forge in biathalon. Alpine skiing competitors include Tommy Biesemeyer of Keene and Lake Placid’s Andrew Weibrecht. Saranac Lake native Chris Mazdzer and Erin Hamlin of Remsen tackled luge. Mazdzer is the first U.S. Olympic medalist in men’s singles luge, winning silver during the games.
More than a thousand people gathered at the Ice Palace in Saranac Lake early on a Thursday morning during the games to watch Mazdzer race in the mixed luge team relay. “To be with the community of Saranac Lake and celebrating the Olympics with a thousand people it’s just community spirit and excitement.”
Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau: “Saranac Lake gets behind its athletes.”
Rabideau notes that the community is planning to celebrate the athletes’ return. “Traditionally in Saranac Lake we have a parade. We bring them into the auditorium. All the school children come by. All the rest of the citizenry that wants to participate comes by and we salute our athletes in grand fashion. That’s a tradition here. Every four years we do it.”
Many of the athletes train at the Olympic Regional Development Authority facilities around Lake Placid. ORDA Spokesman Jon Lundin says they’ll be working with the national governing bodies of the sports and with local communities to recognize the Olympic athletes. “There’s so many athletes that competed in Pyeongchang from this region. So over the last couple of games we’ve had parades in Saranac Lake and in Lake Placid and we’re looking at doing something very similar to that to help recognize those who competed.”
Lundin has noticed a heightened level of local interest during these Winter Olympics. “Some of that has to do with Chris Mazdzer winning the silver medal in men’s singles luge and making U.S. Olympic history in doing that. But you know there’s been a lot of interest locally with Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey and Andrew Weibrecht with perhaps them competing in their last Olympic games. So I think people have really paid particular attention to those athletes with hopes that they would excel at the games and perhaps leave their sports with Olympic medals.”
While there is a focus on the Olympic competition in South Korea, ORDA’’s Lundin notes that, weather permitting, winter sports competitions have been ongoing in Lake Placid. "While the elite athletes were competing in Pyeongchang the next generation of Olympians were competing here in Lake Placid. Athletes that you may see four years down the road in Beijing. And then you combine that with the fact that Lake Placid is a two time Olympic community people are coming to Lake Placid so that they themselves can feel the Olympic spirit. Even though the games are overseas in South Korea there’s still a lot of activity in Lake Placid."
U.S. Luge Association spokesman Sandy Calgiore says the Olympics end the season for the 10 athletes who competed. “First thing will be some R&R. It was a real grind this season from October right through the Olympic Games. It was high intensity training, pressure packed to qualify for the Olympic team. And then of course the pressure of competing in the Olympics is ratcheted up another level. And so the athletes they’ll get away from it all for a while. But come late spring they’ll be right back in it and getting ready for next season.”
Some of the Olympians have already returned to the U.S. Chris Mazdzer rang the opening bell on Wall Street Thursday.