Raney-Norman recalls SLC 2002

Feb. 08, 2012, 6:27 p.m. (ET)

Catherine Raney-Norman was born in Nashville, Tenn., about four months after a speed skater named Eric Heiden cruised his way into Olympic history by winning five gold medals at the Lake Placid 1980 Olympic Winter Games.

Of course back then, she had no idea who he was. Or for that matter she had no idea that she, too, would one day become a speed skater who would compete in the next Olympic Winter Games held on U.S. soil 22 years later in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In fact, by the time Raney-Norman would compete in Salt Lake, she would already have skated in one Winter Games, in Nagano, Japan, in 1998. She would go on to become a four-time Olympian.

But having an opportunity to compete in an Olympic Winter Games in her home country proved to be a life-changing experience for Raney-Norman. So much so that today she even calls Utah home. She has lived in Park City since 2006 and earned a college degree from the University of Utah in 2011.

“I’m a native now,” she said with a laugh. “I was here a lot after the ’02 Games and after the ’06 Games, I just decided to move here for training.”

Tonight, she will be able to relive some of the memorable moments of the Winter Games in 2002 when the city of Salt Lake City plays host to a 10th anniversary celebration in Rice-Eccles Stadium, the venue that welcomed the world to the Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Winter Games a decade ago. The Winter Games opened Feb. 8, 2002, and ran through Feb. 24, 2002. The United States has a lot to celebrate as Salt Lake City was the site of the most successful Winter Games for American athletes, who hauled in a record 34 medals.

As part of the event this evening, the cauldron will be relit and there will be a special reception for state officials, former board of directors for the Winter Games in Salt Lake and, of course, several Olympians and Paralympians. The ceremony will be open to the public and will be broadcast live on the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City 

Among the Olympians expected to attend the event are Raney-Norman, two-time Olympic moguls medalist Shannon Bahrke-Happe, Olympic champion speed skater Derek Parra, Olympic men’s skeleton gold medalist Jimmy Shea, two-time Paralympic alpine skier Muffy Davis, 12-time Paralympic medalist Chris Waddell. The event also will feature a couple of young Utah athletes who hope to one day call themselves Olympians: Tay Polster, a third-grader who participates in ski jumping, and figure skater named Isabella Miller, who was born the year of the Salt Lake Winter Games in 2002.

“There are events pretty much all of February, and I think it’s going to be fantastic,” Raney-Norman said. “It’s great because the whole community is getting involved, and it’s a great opportunity for us as athletes to give back.”

Raney-Norman does plenty of giving back as a coach of a club team for young speed skaters in Park City. She will do even more throughout this month by attending a variety of commemorative events for the 2002 Winter Games, including the Kearns Community Celebration on Feb. 17 at the Utah Olympic Oval, the site of the speedskating competition. 

A four-time Olympian, Raney-Norman had the opportunity compete in the Winter Games in three continents: in Asia (Nagano, 1998), in North America 2002 (Salt Lake City, 2002, and Vancouver, Canada, 2010) and in Europe (Torino, Italy, 2006). But by far, her choice would be to have the Winter Games held on U.S. soil. She was 17 in her first trip to the Winter Games in Nagano and 29 when she competed a fourth time in Vancouver.

“I was a young athlete in ’98 and I was very focused about my own dream,” Raney-Norman said. “I didn’t really realize what it meant to represent Team USA until I came to compete in Salt Lake. It was an incredible experience for me as an athlete.”

The most profound moment of the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games came during the Opening Ceremony when several athletes carried in the tattered American flag from the World Trade Center buildings, which had been demolished in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 less than five months earlier.

“When I saw that flag, I came to the realization that I wasn’t just skating around in circles for myself,” she said. “I was representing the United States of America. Seeing that flag coming into the stadium made me think not only about our country coming together but of the world coming together. We needed that moment.”

Living in Utah now, Raney-Norman rarely needs much reminding that the Olympic Winter Games were held in this state. In fact, she said she runs into fellow Olympians all the time.

“I was in Whole Foods yesterday when I ran into someone,” she said.

But this month’s festivities will serve as more of a class reunion than even the regular meetings with other athletes.

“The running joke between all of us is, ‘Hey, I guess I’ll see a lot of you this month,’ ” Raney-Norman said.

And Raney-Norman, now a proud resident of Utah, has no problems with that.

Amy Rosewater is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. Material from various news services and press releases from National Governing Bodies was used to compile this report. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.

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