PARK CITY — Sage Kotsenburg provided one of the most thrilling moments of the Sochi Winter Olympics. He went from a relatively unknown snowboarder to an Olympic gold medalist.
The same can be said for skier Joss Christensen, who won gold in freestyle skiing.
Kotsenburg and Christensen are close friends. Both of them were raised in Park City and both of them trained for years at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association's Center of Excellence, which is based in Park City.
"I, like, lived in here, you know? This place is insane. You can see people working out right now. It's, like, the coolest place," Kotsenburg said inside the gym Thursday.
“I'm definitely lucky this is all here and I grew up in Park City and live in such an amazing town,” Christensen said.
The center is where athletes on the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team dream of Olympic glory. It’s also a place that costs millions of dollars of year to operate, when you factor in all the equipment, coaches, travel across the world to events, and all the different programs designed to make USA athletes the best in the world.
"We need to fund athletes. We're not government supported, so all of our funding comes from corporate sponsors or private donations,” said Michael Jaquet, the chief marketing officer with USSA.
Thursday, Jaquet and other U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association members thanked their sponsors by holding a partners summit at their Park City headquarters. They showed videos, talked about Olympics ratings success, and held speaking panels with some of their athletes.
Kotsenburg, Christensen, and skier David Wise, who also won a gold medal in Men’s Halfpipe in Sochi, were on one of the panels together.
“The greatest thing about the Olympics is it produces superstars. We have 17 medalists and everyone loves our athletes,” said Jaquet.
One of those superstars the Sochi Olympics produced is Kotsenburg, who appeared on national television shows like "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," "The Today Show," and "Conan."
Sponsors also were able to take part in workouts at the Center of Excellence’s gym with some of the athletes.
“We treat them like an Olympian. We beat them up a little bit,” said Jaquet. “But, we feel having that one-on-one time with our athletes is important. If they didn’t know before why they sponsored us, they’ll figure it out now.”
Many of the athletes the sponsors trained with are already preparing for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.
"Sochi is in the past. They're thinking about the future and they are dialing in on it. Every day, that's what is running through their mind,” said Kate Johnson, a Visa representative and former Olympian.Comment on this story
"Having the Center Of Excellence, having the partnerships with USSA, the backing of the community of Park City around you, supporting you day in and day out, that ultimately makes the difference,” said Johnson.
The difference could be gold.