Lake Placid Churns Out Olympians Aiming For Gold

Bill Demong, pictured here Jan. 16 competing in the Nordic Combined Ski World Cup in France i i

hide captionBill Demong, pictured here Jan. 16 competing in the Nordic Combined Ski World Cup in France, is from Lake Placid, N.Y., which has sent at least one athlete to every Winter Olympics since they began in 1924.

Laurent Cipriani/AP
Bill Demong, pictured here Jan. 16 competing in the Nordic Combined Ski World Cup in France

Bill Demong, pictured here Jan. 16 competing in the Nordic Combined Ski World Cup in France, is from Lake Placid, N.Y., which has sent at least one athlete to every Winter Olympics since they began in 1924.

Laurent Cipriani/AP

The Olympics are a mammoth industry. The Winter Games in February in Vancouver will cost more than $1.5 billion, as athletes from more than 80 countries compete.

But there was a time when the Olympics were much simpler and smaller — like in 1932, when Lake Placid, N.Y., hosted the games and then-New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt opened them. Lake Placid hosted again in 1980, when the U.S. Olympic hockey team beat the Soviet Union in the "Miracle on Ice."

But what's remarkable is that the small Lake Placid area has sent at least one athlete to every Winter Olympics since they began in 1924. This year, 10 athletes from the area will go to Vancouver.

Some have been competing against each other for decades, including biathletes Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey, and Bill Demong, a world champion in Nordic combined, or country skiing and ski jumping.

Demong's mother, Helen, says winter sports are just in these athletes' blood.

"I was 8 months pregnant with Bill at the 1980 Olympics," she says. "I remember patting my belly and thinking, 'That's my Olympic baby.' It worked!"

But the U.S. has never won a medal in either biathlon or Nordic combined. So Helen Demong says hopes are riding high on these local athletes. And these Olympic parents say their kids would love to see another wave of young athletes fall in love with the sports and come up behind them.

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