“I Was Spellbound”

Six athletes from 12 Winter Games tell us what it’s like to be an Olympian.

(Brakeman, Team Canada)
Innsbruck, Austria, 1964

Olympics Highlight: Our gold medal win.

Olympics Lowlight: There weren’t any low points. It was all such an exciting experience. 

Who Inspired Me: The inspiration came from an Italian who was the best at the time, Eugenio Monti. We trained in Cortina, where he lived, and he remained a good friend from that point out.

My Memory of the Opening Ceremony: It was a wonderful get-together of people from around the world and such a dramatic change in perception following the [Korean] war. You’d think about how mankind could do that to one another, and then you find that we’re all the same—an educational experience.

My Advice to Olympic Hopefuls: It’s such a different world. The chances of a young person aspiring to Olympic involvement are so remote, and it requires so much money.

How I Dealt with Jitters: They always exist, but they leave the moment you leave the starting gate.

My Time in the Olympic Village: It was good. As a matter of fact, they did a wonderful job with the facilities. In my same building were the coach of the U.S. ski team, Bob Beattie, and two of his team members. 

Favorite Souvenir: My gold medal.

What I Was Thinking on the Podium: I was spellbound. It’s all quite exciting, and your imagination just flies around in circles. It was so different from what I had known and experienced. The guy standing right next to us, who could easily have beaten us, helped us the most: Eugenio Monti, our mentor. And we ended up beating him. But here we are with the gold medal, and he won bronze. We were happy to be there with those people and in that class.

Where I Keep My Medal: I think I could find it in a dusty corner of a cupboard upstairs.

A retired geologist, Kirby lives in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. He majored in earth sciences and geology.

Sapporo, Japan, 1972
Innsbruck, Austria, 1976
Lake Placid, New York, 1980
Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, 1984

Olympics Highlight: In 1976 our relay team came in sixth in the 4-by-10-kilometer relay, which blew everyone away.

Olympics Lowlight: In 1984 I was on the relay team. We were doing okay until I came along and had a terrible race. At some point I was unable to breathe. Everything got restricted, everything slowed down. That was a tough day. 

Who Inspired Me: It all comes back to my dad, John Caldwell ’50, exposing us to skiing and instilling in us a love for the sport. He went to Dartmouth, was a ski coach, and was on the 1952 Olympic ski team. The youngest of our three kids, Patrick ’17, competed in the Olympics, and my niece, Sophie ’12, competed in two Olympics. 

My Memory of the Opening Ceremony: I turned 18 at my first Olympics, and to be there with all the other athletes from other countries and different disciplines was pretty impressive. 

What I’d Do Differently: I would make sure that I get enough rest and understand the value and importance of rest. I think I had a tendency to overtrain and not give myself enough time to recover between training sessions.

My Advice to Olympic Hopefuls: You’ve got to be patient and figure out a way where you’re really enjoying the work—because it’s a ton of work.

My Superstitions: I had a favorite pair of skis, and I’d try to make them work in all conditions. Whether that was superstitious or whether they were really good skis for me, I’m not 100-percent sure.

How I Dealt with Jitters: The more relaxed I was at the beginning, the better I would do.  

My Time in the Olympic Village: My first year it wasn’t particularly fun. I got the flu and ended up in the infirmary. 

Favorite Souvenir: We were coming back from Japan on a plane with a Frenchman, a fellow Olympian. I traded him my trench coat, which I’d worn during the opening ceremonies, for the coat he had worn. His was much more stylish, and it had a little rooster on the arm. 

When People Learn I’m an Olympian: The first thing they ask is, “Did you win a medal?” And my answer is, “No, I never won a medal.” And some lose interest. It was a part of my life, and it certainly influenced my life, but it’s not something I think about very often. 

Caldwell lives in Lyme Center, New Hampshire, and owns a law office in Lebanon, New Hampshire. He majored in history.

(Normal Hill, Individual)
Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, 1984

Olympics Highlight: Re-meeting my future wife. I had met Ivana, an alpine ski racer, the year before in Sofia, Bulgaria, at the World University Games. We re-met the first day in Sarajevo.

Olympics Lowlight: The virus that struck the village. I got as sick as I had ever been in my life in the second week. I ended up not being able to ski the second round.

My Memory of the Opening Ceremony: It was cloudy, and we were wearing semi-dorky Western suits and cowboy hats.

What I’d Do Differently: Stay in my room and not get the virus. 

My Advice to Olympic Hopefuls: Do it because you love it and go as far as you can and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get to the Olympics. 

How I Dealt with Jitters: I had the ignoble position of having bib No. 1, and the competition was delayed. Nobody knew that it was a really slippery track, so I didn’t have to think about it. 

My Superstitions: No superstitions. The fact is you do your best by not dwelling on the competition.

My Motto: Back then Steve Winwood sang on the album Arc of a Diver: “While you see a chance, take it.”

When People Learn I’m an Olympian: I say it was only one day of my life. The reality is people have a hard time getting their head around ski jumping, so the bigger part is explaining the sport. The most fun competition I ever had was actually at the golf course ski jump for Winter Carnival. The crowd at Carnival would literally pick you up. There’s a hole in the world without a ski jump in Hanover.”

Arnold lives in Niwot, Colorado. A geology major, he is president of Nomadic, which develops sports gear.

LUGE (Singles)
Calgary, Canada, 1988
Albertville, France, 1992
Lillehammer, Norway, 1994
Nagano, Japan, 1998

Olympics Highlight: In 1994 I was elected by my teammates to carry the U.S. flag at the opening ceremonies. That night it felt like 28 degrees below, and the head of marketing of USA Luge was standing with the team and said, “Okay, don’t worry. There are only billions of people watching on TV. Don’t trip and fall!”

Olympics Lowlight: The night before my first day of racing in Albertville I got the flu, and I was up all night throwing up. Fifth was my best finish there, but at the time I was incredibly disappointed because I had been so sick and not at my peak performance. But these things happen.

Who Inspired Me: My parents volunteered at the Olympics in Lake Placid [New York] in 1980. I was 11, and I went with them to the luge track every day. I got to see the best athletes in the world competing and was super-excited. Afterward, my parents let me skip school for two weeks and go to luge camp. I loved it from the first time I got on the sled, won the Junior Olympics race at the end of the two weeks, and got invited back. 

My Memory of the Opening Ceremony: The moment I walked into the opening ceremonies in Calgary I was like, “Oh, okay. Now I really feel like I’m on the Olympic team.”

My Advice to Olympic Hopefuls: Whatever the sport is that you’re doing, you really have to love it. And enjoy the journey. It is so important to enjoy and be present in the journey. 

My Superstitions: I did have certain shirts and socks and long underwear that I wore on race day. And they were lucky until I didn’t have a good result, then I would have to get another lucky pair of socks. 

How I Dealt with Jitters: I just tried to be focused in the moment. It helped to eliminate any negative nervousness. 

My Time in the Olympic Village: For the first five days I was super-focused because I was there to compete in a race that I had been training for my whole life. But after the races were done, it was great. I could get tickets to go see my teammates compete, and the sponsors were always having parties and inviting athletes to make appearances at those.

My Motto: There is a quote that I like: “Leap and the net will appear.”

When People Learn I’m an Olympian: They are excited: “Oh, I’ve never met an Olympic athlete before!” Then they ask, “What sport did you compete in?” Usually, in response to that question, I ask, “Do you know what luge is?” Because not everyone does. And people are like, “Oh, that one with the brooms on the ice?”

Myler is a lawyer and teaches sports management at New York University. She majored in geography.


Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super-G)
Sochi, Russia, Paralympic Games, 2014
PyeongChang, South Korea, Paralympic Games, 2018

Olympics Highlight: There’s a lot of diversity with respect to cultures, and, at the same time, all the athletes have a similar drive to want to be the best at what they do. I think that crowd is very inspiring to be around.

Olympics Lowlight: Leading up to PyeongChang, I had a lot of injuries and a lot of issues. I left PyeongChang on a very low note because I hadn’t performed to the best of my ability. 

Who Inspired Me: I had a lot of people rooting for me. I’ve had a really strong support system, from my family to coaches who saw me as a very young athlete and pushed me to want to be better and compete on the world stage.

My Memory of the Opening Ceremony: I’m a visually impaired skier, so I compete with a guide, and we got to experience all of that together. 

What I’d Do Differently: Maybe not put myself under that much pressure.

My Advice to Olympic Hopefuls: Keep working hard and don’t let people tell you that you can’t reach your goals. It doesn’t matter how many people tell you that you can’t do something. You only need one or two who tell you that you can.

How I Dealt with Jitters: I had a very strategic pre-race routine that included addressing some of my anxieties and some of the mental aspects of performance.

Favorite Souvenir: My comforters, because they all have the Olympic logos from the years I was there. 

When People Learn I’m an Olympian: They usually find out that I’m a Paralympian. If they don’t know that I have a disability, it surprises them, and they are interested in that as well. People think it’s cool. 

Mannella lives in Muncie, Indiana, and is pursuing a doctorate in counseling psychology with a focus on sport at Ball State University. She majored in anthropology.


HOCKEY (Team Canada)
PyeongChang, South Korea, 2018

Olympics Highlight: The opening ceremonies. It’s the first moment as Team Canada, not just as the hockey team.

Olympics Lowlight: Going home afterward. You reach that pinnacle, and then you go home and you go, “What’s next?”

What Inspired Me: When I was a little girl, I got the opportunity to watch the 2002 Winter Olympics on TV and I thought, “Hey, maybe I can do this too.”

My Memory of the Opening Ceremony: It was all such a blur. I couldn’t believe it, I was so excited. It was a four- or five-hour process but it felt like 20 minutes. In a couple of pictures of me and one of the other rookies, we were just staring in awe.

What I’d Do Differently: Enjoy every single minute in the process. There are so many steps along the way. The more you can focus on the day-to-day life, the better it is.

My Advice to Olympic Hopefuls: If your heart is set on something, anything is possible. You just have to believe in it.

My Superstitions: I like to have a nap, have coffee before a game. You never know what the day is gonna entail.

My Motto: “Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the tree.” I’ve lived by that especially in hard
moments when things haven’t gone my way. I do feel like the hardest moments of my life have made me better.

How I Dealt with Jitters: The more we talk about it as a team, the easier it is to deal with.

My Time in the Olympic Village: The village is incredible. You’re surrounded by athletes from every country in the world, Olympians from every sport. 

Favorite Souvenir: A little stuffed white tiger, the mascot from PyeongChang, still sits on my bedside table. 

When People Learn I’m an Olympian: They get excited. Everyone just wants to know more.

What I Was Thinking on the Podium: We wanted and expected a lot more of ourselves, so it was really upsetting at the time [to get a silver medal rather than gold]. A couple of months after, once it settles in, you realize so many memories and amazing experiences are behind that medal.

Where I Keep My Medal: I used to keep it in my bedside table in a sock, but now it’s in a safe. I still get it out for different occasions.       

Stacey lives in Calgary, Alberta. She majored in economics.


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