With so much focus on Olympic athletes as individuals, it's easy to forget family. But the support and sacrifice that parents make to help their offspring's dreams come true can't be overlooked. Most people think that the U.S. government helps the U.S. Team make it to the Olympics, but in reality it's parents, fans, donations, and family-supporting organizations like the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) that do the heavy lifting.
With 94 world-class American athletes in Sochi, the family entourage can easily triple those numbers, so logistics and national support become critical. "In partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee, we are providing each of them [athletes] with the support infrastructure and freedom from distraction that will allow them to compete at their highest level," says Luke Bodensteiner, USSA executive vice-president of athletics. "We've spent a significant amount of time on the ground over the last seven years developing local relationships and establishing a training base. We also have staff on the ground here to manage needs of parents and families to avoid having athletes distracted by having to find tickets for mom and dad."
To see what it's really like for Olympic families, we caught up with Ken and Patty Gold, who are in Russia to support their two snowboard halfpipe Olympians, Taylor, 20, and Arielle, 17. (Taylor failed to make the men’s halfpipe finals Tuesday night, but Arielle will compete in women’s halfpipe Wednesday.)
It must be surreal to have two kids in the Olympics. Try to describe what you're feeling right now.
Ken: The word that keeps coming to my mind is "surreal"—not something that was expected, but feeling really blessed and grateful. Looking forward to them just having made the team—that was an enormous success! The Olympic experience is icing on the cake. Anything beyond that would be beyond belief.
What values did you try to instill in Taylor and Arielle that have helped them rise to an Olympic level?
Patty: I think that for the type of life experience snowboarding has provided and taking the experience wherever they are, be it Breckenridge [Colorado] or traveling around, and being grateful for what they get to do—that they have a great sense of doing it for the joy and being in the moment.
What traits do you think will help your children most when competing on the Olympic stage?
Ken: Arielle is super competitive, incredibly determined, and resilient. Taylor is more thoughtful, and he's incredibly passionate about snowboarding and about performing at the highest level for the joy of riding—not for just trying to win, but the satisfaction of the run, part of being a great and unique rider.
What's one thing about your kids that only a parent would know?
Patty: Arielle is here at the Olympics and all she has been talking about is when she gets home she wants to adopt a puppy! On the phone all she can talk about is adopting a puppy. She gets very fixated on one thing and she is relentless when she wants something and is willing to work for it when she wants it. Taylor is different because he likes to listen to comedy as opposed to music when he drops in the pipe.
You live in Ski Town USA. How has Steamboat Springs, Colorado, supported your children's path to the Olympics?
Ken: Growing up in town with an Olympic tradition, where you probably know or have known a lot of people who have gone to the Olympics, the community in Steamboat shows that it's not as unattainable as it would seem. When you grow up going to Olympian Hall at Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and see the flags hanging from the ceiling, it makes it seem more realistic—an incredible condition to groom your child to whatever their passion is, right from the get go.
Outside of competition, what are you looking forward to doing in Sochi?
Patty: Celebrating the fact that the kids were and are successful. Just getting here is a huge accomplishment. It's not measuring success by medals. Checking out the Olympic ceremony and being around the venues is a pretty unique experience.
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