(L-R) Jared Goldberg, Andrew Weibrecht, Bryce Bennett and Tommy Biesemeyer will compete at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- Growing up near the site of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games, alpine skier Bryce Bennett lived not far from two giant sets of Olympic rings at an intersection that leads into Squaw Valley.
Reminders of those Games more than 50 years ago are still sprinkled around the town. By seventh grade, Bennett was convinced he’d become an Olympian and win a handful of medals. It seemed simple, he said.
“Your neighbor is an Olympian, your other neighbor is an Olympian,” Bennett said, laughing. “You're just like, 'Oh yeah, this is just what you do here. You just go to the Olympics and you get a medal. You come home and you're a legend.'”
Now over a decade since Bennett initially imagined going to the Olympic Winter Games, he’s in PyeongChang to represent the U.S. for the first time at this level. In fact, four of the five men’s speed specialists on the 2018 U.S. Olympic Alpine Skiing Team had similar experiences growing up in Olympic host cities.
Jared Goldberg moved to Salt Lake City from Boston when he was 4 and attended the 2002 Games. Three-time Olympian Andrew Weibrecht and Tommy Biesemeyer are both from the Lake Placid area. With the alpine skiing medal events beginning on Feb. 11, they will all soon embrace the Olympic environment as they did as kids. This time, though, they are the ones competing.
“I attribute all of sitting here today to the Olympic spirit,” said Biesemeyer, who grew up in Keene, New York, which is 20 minutes from Lake Placid, the site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games.
Lake Placid, Weibrecht said, “takes the Olympics very seriously.” For the PyeongChang Games, he said the town is having a month-long celebration.
In the three U.S. cities that have hosted Olympic Winter Games, some tangible reminders of the event remain. Even though Weibrecht and Bennett were not alive during the Games in their hometowns, they still grew up training on Olympic courses.
During the Salt Lake Games, the most recent U.S.-hosted Games, Goldberg attended multiple events as a 10-year-old, ranging from luge to the super-G. He vividly remembers seeing Bode Miller win two silver medals in 2002. Prior to those Games, Goldberg didn’t realize that he could take his passion for skiing to an event of that magnitude.
“I was like, 'Wait, those guys get to do that on TV and ski down a hill? That's what I do,'” Goldberg said. “I think that was the first time I saw there was somewhere to go with it.”
Goldberg, who competed in Sochi, and Weibrecht are the two returning Olympians in the group of five men on the designated U.S. speed team in alpine skiing. Weibrecht won a silver medal in Sochi and a bronze medal in Vancouver, both in super-G. Wiley Maple, Bennett and Biesemeyer are all making their Olympic debut.
Since Bennett was a seventh-grader, he has realized the process of becoming an Olympian is much more difficult than he thought, causing him at one point to consider quitting the sport. Yet, he stuck with it and eventually placed 11th in the combined and 26th in downhill at the 2017 world championships. Now he’s in South Korea at the Olympic Winter Games.
Like Bennett, some of these ski racers’ journeys to the 2018 Games started in their hometowns, where the Olympic energy is still present.
“It created a dream,” Biesemeyer said.
And it’s a dream he and his teammates are achieving in PyeongChang.
Emily Giambalvo is a student in the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is part of TeamUSA.org’s coverage team for the PyeongChang Games.