The teams behind every Olympic athlete: parents, friends, fans
Athletes at the Vancouver Olympics have usually gotten there with the backing of a small army of supporters who encourage, chastise, bolster, and fund. Just ask US skeleton's Noelle Pikus-Pace or US luger Mark Grimmette.
Whistler, British Columbia
In Pictures US medal count
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But thanks to a friend from grade school, she sees humility as even more important than winning.
“In school, we were always competing for the top grades,” says Meyers, recalling the time she waved her higher test score in Katrina Howell’s face. “She scolded me and I thought, oh, well, maybe I need to recheck my attitude.
“She helped me realize that even though I’m a competitive person, everything doesn’t need to be competitive and there are things more important than winning.”
Behind every Olympian is an army of people whose help – whether in encouragement, chastisement, parenting, coaching, funding, or friendship – has shaped their character and provided stepping-stones to Olympic success. When athletes reach that ultimate goal, they in turn profoundly influence the lives of those who have helped them – making the Olympics the celebration not of an elite few, but of a pyramid of support.
“There’s thousands of people behind every single athlete that’s made it to [the] Olympic Games, so it’s about so much more than those athletes,” says Noelle Pikus-Pace, a member of the US skeleton team in Vancouver whose $5,000 sled was replaced by a stranger when it was damaged in 2005.
Superstars and niche sportsmen
For superstars like Canadian hockey player Sidney Crosby, there may be a sea of adoring followers: 65,000 people flooded into his hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, last summer to celebrate his part in a Stanley Cup win. For athletes in niche sports, such as cross-country skier Holly Brooks, it may be a closer-knit group of people.
Brooks was supposed to be a coach, not a racer. But last summer, she finally got up the courage to utter the “O” word and worked out a training plan with her boss. She pushed herself so hard in a mountain running race in July that she was diagnosed with a debilitating illness. Her doctor made her take two full months off training during a prime tune-up period.
“I was a little worried, but knowing Holly I still thought she could pull it off,” says Lisbeth Muffoletto, her doctor. “I’ve never seen somebody with more drive and determination and ability to push away the pain.”
By early September, Brooks was back on track. Squeezing into two workouts a day in addition to her three coaching sessions, she burst onto the US skiing scene this year and began winning nearly every race – much to the delight of husband Rob Whitney, a former racer and Olympic hopeful himself. Back home, her junior skiers made YouTube videos and promised to dye their hair red, white, and blue if she made the team.