PARK CITY — They posed for pictures, shook hands with sponsors and told their stories.
Skiers, skaters and sliders converged in Park City this week as the United States Olympic Committee hosted a media summit meant to introduce Olympic hopefuls to media members. The athletes, none of whom have made the 2014 U.S. Olympic team yet, started meeting with reporters and sponsors at 8 a.m. Monday morning and finished with demonstrations about 8 p.m. that night.
“Honestly, it’s a little bit exhausting for sure,” said aerial skier Emily Cook, who hopes to earn her fourth spot on an Olympic team this winter. “You get tired of talking about yourself for so many hours, but it actually ... reinforces all of the things I know to be true.”
Cook has earned a spot on three Olympic teams — 2002, 2006 and 2010 — but only competed in the 2006 and 2010 games because she broke both her feet training before the 2002 Winter Olympics. At 34, she’s been on the U.S. ski team for 16 years.
She said she doesn’t mind enduring the circus-like atmosphere of the media summits that precede every Olympic Games because it allows athletes to connect with sports fans, some of whom are looking for encouragement and inspiration.
“A lot of people are looking for feedback that will make a difference for other people and reminds me of all the things I’ve learned over the last 20 years,” Cook said. “And it gets me fired up for training for sure. I go into training tomorrow morning, and I have a really positive attitude.”
Bode Miller met with reporters to discuss his attempt to make his fifth Olympic team, alongside several of his teammates, including Park City’s Ted Ligety and Sundance’s Steven Nyman.
Miller elicited laughter with a number of his comments, including why he decided to come back from a knee injury that meant missing the entire season last year.
“Until you’re all rotten and shriveled up, you should keep going,” he said with a smile. “I’m shriveled, but I’m not rotten yet.”
He also met with reporters regarding a new program called Gateway to Gold, which will try to identify and support Paralympic talent. Miller is the group's first Olympian ambassador between the Paralympic development programs and Olympic programs. He got involved in Paralympics after a childhood friend, Cam Shaw-Duran, was paralyzed in a car accident in 1997.
"I've seen a lot of really inspirational stuff coming out of this," Miller said. "It's surprising the level of impact it has on you. It really is rewarding to a degree you wouldn't expect."
Nyman recovered from a torn Achilles to win the downhill race at Val Gardena, Italy, last year, and he said he’s feeling confident as he tries to make his fourth U.S. Olympic team.
“I feel younger than I’ve felt in years,” he said smiling.
Other Utah athletes were on hand to talk with reporters about their Olympic aspirations, including defending bobsled gold medalist Steve Holcomb of Park City, who is the pilot of the famed Night Train. Another Utahn will join him as he tries to qualify for another trip to the Olympics — Alpine’s Chris Fogt.
“Going up to push championships and winning, I was hopeful it would happen, but you never know,” said Fogt, who competed with USA 2 in Vancouver. “I get to start the season with USA 1, which is awesome. I’m very excited.”
Short track speedskater Travis Jayner said the media summit is unique and invigorating.
“It’s fun, obviously,” he said during a round table with reporters. “It’s tough to answer that question, ‘Well, are you on the team?’ No, but at the same time, you know, especially having done it in the past, made an Olympic team, it brings back memories of being there. And not that you need extra motivation, especially when (the games) are so close, but it’s fun. You think, ‘This is really going to happen.’”
The summit continues through Wednesday evening at the Grand Summit Hotel and Canyons Resort.
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