I love the Olympics more than any other recurring event in my life. So basically, my favorite part of 2014 is right now; this is my Christmas, birthday and summer vacation happiness all wrapped into one.
When I hear the Olympic anthem, it makes me almost want to cry because of the pride I feel for my country, the respect I have for the athletes and the positive memories I have associated with watching the games with my family. My family is not a soccer family — that’s why I cover basketball and not soccer — but I distinctly remember all of us sitting together and cheering on Hope Solo, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan in the United States’ overtime win over Brazil. There’s just something about the Games that brings people together and displays the true values and passion of sports.
I’m also a huge sports fan in general, so watching athletes perform on the biggest stage that exists for their sports is truly special — and something that’s even more momentous because the Games only come around every two-and-a-half years.
My goal is to be a commentator or analyst for NBC at the Olympics. If you make it to the Olympics, you’ve made it as an athlete…so doesn’t that mean that if you’re a sports writer or broadcaster for the Olympics, then you’ve made it in that profession? I think so, at least. So that would be a dream come true, especially since I grew up surrounded by past, present and future Olympians.
I grew up in Lake Tahoe and liked to ski at Squaw Valley, where three members of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team and one snowboarder come from. Julia Mancuso (who just won a bronze medal in the super combined downhill), Marco Sullivan, Travis Ganong and Nate Holland were names that I grew up hearing; to watch them compete this year has been incredible.
I have a lot of friends trying to make it onto the U.S. Ski Team and to the Olympics; a close family friend of mine is the coach of the Junior Olympics team at Squaw Valley. While I’m honored when they ask me if I want to ski at Squaw with them, I politely decline because I don’t feel like skiing off a cliff and embarrassing myself.
I mean that figuratively, but if you had asked me a couple of years ago, it would’ve been literally as well. While I am very skeptical now of the Olympics being held in Sochi, for a time I was convinced that I would be at the 2014 Olympics in Russia supporting a certain someone.
Growing up, I had the hugest crush on my best friend’s older brother, who trained at Squaw and was trying to make it on to the Olympic Alpine Ski Team. When he told me about four years ago that competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics was his goal, I told him that I would be there to cheer him on with his sister.
His only response was, “It’s in Russia.”
As if he assumed that I wouldn’t go to a corrupt and somewhat unsafe country for him. For the record, I definitely would have, and so I responded, “Well, you have to go to Russia at some point in your life.”
That’s why it’s so weird that the 2014 Sochi Olympics are going on right now, in the present; it was always a very far-off thing that I felt would never happen, but it’s here, and neither of us — my friend’s brother nor I — is in Russia. He is on the U.S. Ski Team but just barely missed out on the Olympic team.
My best friend still doesn’t know that I used to like her brother; she thinks I’m a huge fan of skiing because of her (she competes for one of the top colleges for skiing in the nation). Nope, alpine skiing in the Olympics holds a special place in my heart because of her brother and my fantasy of travelling to Russia to cheer him on.
And I guess growing up in Lake Tahoe doesn’t hurt since Olympic athletes from every shore surround me. I’m always proud of my hometown when I hear Tahoe or Squaw or Truckee tied to an Olympic athlete’s name. And that’s what the Olympics is all about: pride in community and participation in something that can unite so many types of people.
Unfortunately, Ashley Westhem’s romantic fantasy was crushed by the inability of KZSU and The Daily to get her a press credential for the Sochi Olympics. Tell her why journalists can sometimes be the worst at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tweet at her @ashwest16.