Competing in Utah gave U.S. Athletes the kind of home field advantage they needed to permanently etch a place for winter sports in the hearts and minds of Americans. Still reeling from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the country devoured the feel-good stories of the athletes who battled the world for Olympic glory in heart of the Wasatch Mountains. In 2002, the U.S. Olympic team won a record-setting 34 medals, nearly two and a half times as many as the country had earned in 1998. They shattered world records, capped comebacks and overcame odds to stand for one moment on a podium and be recognized for their achievements. Here are some of the most memorable medal moments from the 2002 Winter Olympics.
This 21-year-old California native earned the first medal for the U.S. Team in mogul skiing on the first afternoon of competition, Feb. 9. After not even finishing in the top 10 in World Cup competition that season, she surprised everyone but herself with a silver medal in the ski race at Deer Valley. She subsequently competed in two other Olympic Games, earning bronze in Vancouver. She is now retired, married and running her own business, Silver Bean Coffee, in Salt Lake City.
The day after Bahrke won the first U.S. medal, the 18-year-old Vermont native won the country's first gold in snowboard half-pipe. Ten years later, she is still competing, earning a bronze in Vancouver and winning her last 13 competitions, including back-to-back X Games gold medals.
Skeleton's Shea tucked a photo of his gold-winning grandfather, Jack Shea, into his helmet and then sped down the track at the Utah Olympic Park to an Olympic Gold medal. Jack Shea had died in a car accident a few months earlier, and Jim wore his grandfather's gold medal onto the podium when he received his own. Ten years later he plans to attempt an Olympic comeback, but this time in bobsled.
The soft-spoken snowboarder led the young American squad to an Olympic first - a podium sweep in snowboarding. Powers won gold with Danny Kass earning silver and JJ Thomas claiming bronze. Ten years later, he's still competing but has also used his wealth and platform to help other athletes by starting the Level Field Fund, which gives financial assistance to budding athletes.
The first Mexican-American to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics, the humble Home Depot employee finished the games with two medals and a legion of fans. Ten years later he works at the Utah Olympic Oval where he won his medals, teaching youngsters the sport of speed skating.
He won two silver medals, both in dramatic fashion in Alpine skiing. He became the first American man to win a medal in the combined event, and then he moved from seventh to second in the giant slalom. Ten years later he is still skiing for the U.S. Ski Team and remains one of its most successful and decorated skiers.
Competing in his first Olympic Games, Ohno became a heartthrob with his gutsy speedskating and charming way. He earned two medals (gold in 1,500 and silver in 1,000) but he was expected to win four. He emerged as one of the most popular athletes from the 2002 Games. Ten years later he's had an historic career earning more medals than any other winter sport athlete (8). He's currently taking time away from the sport and involving himself in business ventures, but friends said a 2014 Olympic run is not out of the question.
The teenage powerhouse turned in a nearly flawless freeskate performance and bested Russian powerhouse Irina Slutskaya and skating Icon Michelle Kwan to take the gold in figure skating. And like everything in figure skating in 2002, there was controversy. The Russians protested the result, but the judges' decision stood. A controversy involving Russian and Canadian pairs skaters, dubbed "Skategate" eventually led to sweeping changes in the way figure skaters are judged.
The state's native son won a silver medal in his home town in aerials. He promptly declared Park City Football to be king and said he planned to celebrate by walking the streets of hometown thanking everyone for their support.
This New Mexico native became a testiment to what the state could produce with the newly constructed Olympic Park in Park City. She moved to Salt Lake City to become a skeleton racer, and ended up earning a gold medal in the 2002 Games. Ten years later she lives in Reno, Nevada, is married and attending college.
Just a month after she was diagnosed with mononucleosis, this speedskater set a world record and won a gold medal in the 1000-meter race. In that same race, Witty’s teammate, Jennifer Rodriguez earned a bronze medal. Hers was one of three gold medals won by speedskaters at the Utah Olympic Oval.
Edging a Japanese skater by three-100ths of a second, FitzRandolph earned a gold medal in the 500 meter event. He is married with two children, living in his native Wisconsin.
This crew ended a 46-year Olympic medal drought in bobsled when they won silver at the Utah Olympic Park. The other U.S. Sled finished third to make it a huge day for this country’s bobsled program. Schuffenhauer, who grew up in Utah and still lives here, was added to the team after brakeman Pavle Jovanovic was banned from the sport for two years after testing positive for steroids.