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Tahoe residents walk with memories

Darin Olde, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Lake Tahoe residents are feeling fortunate to have witnessed for only the fourth time in the nation’s history the most prestigious international competition in the world in their own backyard.

The 19th Olympic Winter Games, which had the United States’ most impressive finish ever, concludes at Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium Sunday.

“It was excellent; really, really great,” said Truckee resident Susie Sutphin, who returned last Sunday from Salt Lake City. Along with her father, brother and sister-in-law, Sutphin spent five days in Utah, hitting the slopes and watching some of her favorite sports unfold at a level of competition few have seen firsthand before.

Sutphin, a marketing director and contributing editor for Couloir magazine, said the women’s luge was the most memorable event.

“It’s hard to watch because they go so fast,” she said. “Watching it on TV doesn’t do it justice.”

As competitors approached, the vibration and the quiet whooshing sound of a sled moving at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour was quickly drowned out by a cacophony of cow bells, chanting and cheering from expectant fans.

Matt and Scott Samelson, who returned from Salt Lake City after renting a recreational vehicle, also witnessed the luge for the first time.

“The whole course you couldn’t see very much. You can just catch them for a quarter-second,” Scott said Wednesday.

The two walked along the entire course to catch a better view, and managed to see the the bobsledding teams in their initial sprint.

Sutphin and Goddard were among the sold-out crowd at the Delta Center Feb. 16, for the men’s 1,000-meter short track finals. Medal favorite Apolo Anton Ohno took the silver after being swept from his feet in a crash that sent him spinning into the boards after leading the pack.

“It was disappointing but intensely exciting,” Sutphin said. “Everyone rose on there feet in the last quarter and boom! They were down, and everyone was like ‘No!'”

Sutphin also attended ski jumping, the women’s combined downhill, cross country and ice dancing.

At the women’s combined downhill at Snowbasin Ski Area, she watched Croatian Janica Kostelic sweep each of the three races, and finish ahead of Austria’s Renate Goetschl and Germany’s Martina Ertl.

They also enjoyed the medal ceremonies, heard a concert by rock star Macy Gray, and enjoyed the night life and food.

The food was one of Jenny Cooper’s favorite topics.

A physical therapist at Emerald Bay Physical Therapy in South Lake Tahoe, Cooper also is a part-time medical staffer with the United States Ski and Snowboard Association’s Olympic Snowboarding Team. She spent about two weeks with the team, helping to revitalize tired bodies.

Cooper took advantage of having a full-time, live-in chef.

“He cooked every meal of our want or our desire,” Cooper said Wednesday.

The men’s halfpipe team had the first U.S. Winter Olympic medal sweep since the men’s figure skaters did it in 1956.

“It was incredible,” Cooper said. There was a huge crowd in a festive, party mood. “The guys rode exceptionally well. They had been training all week to get the amplitude in their jumps.”

Ross Powers finished in the gold medal slot above silver medalist Danny Kass and bronze finisher Jarret Thomas.

On the women’s side, Kelly Clark earned the gold medal above silver medalist Doriane Vidal from France and Switzerland’s Fabienne Reuteler with the bronze.

Cooper had one of the best seats in the house. She was stationed at the bottom of the pipe and was able to watch the competitors from start to finish.

“(It was) fabulous,” she said. “It was a great vantage point to be there and see the entire run … They were getting huge air.”

From a medical point of view, Cooper said the prowess of the competitors is world class. “They are incredibly strong and brave. It takes a tremendous amount of speed and coordination … to observe the human body riding a static board flinging into the air, twisting and flipping before coming back down is amazing.”

Cooper didn’t see the trio of American medalists much after they won the medals. The team manager whisked them away to a blitzkrieg of media events.

Cooper and Sutphin said security was intense, but that it moved smoothly.

Cooper said it took between 20-30 minutes to clear security check points at some venues.

What was ridiculous, Sutphin said, were the lines for food and for Olympic paraphernalia.

“It’s amazing how long people were willing to stand in lines,” she said. “People who didn’t bring food were in a frenzy to eat.”

All the events were crowded, but with a feeling of celebration, said Michel Greenstein.

Greenstein, who operates Hot Spots, a self-contained electronic kiosk promotional information system, has had a presence in Salt Lake City for the last month. He said the mood has been festive in the evenings all the way to 1 a.m.

“The streets get filled with revelers … There is almost a brotherly love thing going on down there.”

And for those still in Utah who have yet to catch the brotherly love of Olympic action, seats are still available at the closing ceremony Sunday. Prime tickets are running for $885. Seats in the north-end bleachers are available for $320.


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