The legacy of the 2002 Olympics is alive and well, with a full third of Team USA in Beijing living and training in Utah. How did that culture of sport grow over the last 20 years? Last Chair talks with Youth Sports Alliance leader Emily Fisher, along with a half-dozen Utah Olympians competing in Beijing. How did they get into sport? And how has it impacted their lives.
“I'm so thankful for the people in town who founded the Youth Sports Alliance after the 2002 games,” said Fisher. “It was a community effort to get all of the youth from Summit and Wasatch counties out using these amazing Olympic venues and getting as many kids out and active in our community playground. The legacy absolutely still lives on.”
And it has worked. Some, like nordic combined skier Jared Shumate and cross country skier Rosie Brennan grew up in Park City Mountain. Others, like freeskiers Izzy and Zoe Atkin, moved to Park City because of the great sport opportunities. Some, like Olympic gold medalist aerials skiers Ashley Caldwell, Chris Lillis and Justin Schonenfeld, were brought together by the world-acclaimed freestyle training facility at the Utah Olympic Park that opened in 1993.
But while Utah takes great pride in its Olympians in Beijing, Fisher is quick to point out the broader value of sport.
These athletes are phenomenal PR stories for us, she said. “But for me, it's really about the 1,500 kids that we get out and get active every year. It's really important for every kid. A lot of their parents work in the service industry and they don't have the opportunity to use these amazing Olympic venues, to get out, to learn how to ski, learn how to snowboard. The most important legacy of our program is that these kids can grow up and feel part of the community because they participate in things that are so important to the community.”
Park City native Jared Shumate skis in the Olympic Trials at Lake Placid. He made his debut in the Beijing Olympic Winter Games. (USA Nordic)
Now a nordic combined Olympian, Jared Shumate grew up in Park City and tried a myriad sports through the Youth Sports Alliance’s Get Out and Play program.
“Growing up in Park City, every day on my way to school, just looking out the windows, I could see the Utah Olympic Park not knowing when I was three years old that I'd be going to the Olympics for that sport. So who knows, maybe it's been in me since I was a little kid.”
Two-time Olympian Rosie Brennan grew up with a myriad of sports before choosing cross country after seeing it at the 2002 Olympics. Today she’s one of the best in the world.
Rosie Brennan did just about every outdoor winter sport before her mom made her choose. They had had a great time watching cross country skiing during the Olympics at Soldier Hollow during the 2002 Olympics, so that’s what she chose. Today, she’s one of the top-ranked skiers in the world and competing at her second Olympics.
“Sport has brought me, honestly, just about everything. I am so thankful for the opportunities that I've had. It's putting a challenge out there and working hard towards it. Oftentimes you come up short and have to learn how to take that shortcoming, process it, figure out what went well, what didn't go well and then work up the courage to take what you learned and apply it again.”
Utah freeskier Brendan Newby and snowboarder Seamus O’Connor pose with their Irish flag before the 2018 Olympian Homecoming parade. The two Utah athletes are competing in Beijing.
Halfpipe skier Brendan Newby was born in Ireland but grew up in Orem. When he was four, his father took him to Brighton. Young Bubba, as he is known to friends today, was hooked. He made his first Olympic team for Ireland in 2018 and is back again, along with countryman and fellow Irish snowboarder Seamus O’Connor, another Utah transplant.
“Utah is probably one of the most fun places to grow up. I'm a mountain biker and dirt biker as well, and I can basically go 20 minutes in any direction and have insanely good stuff to ride. If you want to be a winter sport Olympian, Utah is kind of the place to do it for literally any sport because of the 2002 Games and because the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation has kept up all of the facilities so well.”
Izzy and Zoe Atkin
Olympian Izzy Atkin, who grew up in local Utah club programs, poses alongside the Great Wall of China snowscape at the Olympic slopestyle venue. (Izzy Atkin Instagram)
The young Atkin sisters, Izzy and Zoe, were passionate about winter sport. So a family move to Park City when they were young gave a dream playground and a strong club program to build their skills. Skiing for their father's homeland of Great Britain, in 2018 Izzy won Olympic bronze in slopestyle skiing. This time, she’s bring along younger sister Zoe who competes in halfpipe skiing.
Young skiers Izzy and Zoe Atkin pose on a mountaintop. Today, both are in Beijing as sister Olympians. (Izzy Atkin)
“It's just a really great place to be because everyone loves just to be outside and to do what they love to do like skiing and snowboarding, being outdoors. A lot of people have that athlete mindset. I went to the Winter Sports School - a whole school of winter sports athletes. It was great to be in that community. We all pushed each other. Everyone just kind of has that drive to be outside and have fun, but also to push themselves in sport.” - Zoe Atkin
“Yeah, (PyeongChang 2018) was incredible. It was the first experience I'd ever had like that - to have all those incredibly driven athletic people in one bubble and getting to know other people's stories, how they got to where they are today. That mindset in the village is super motivating. It was just an amazing experience for me to even go there.” - Izzy Atkin
Olympic moguls skier Nick Page is all smiles as a part of Team USA at the moguls venue in Zhangjiakou. (Nick Page Instagram)
Still a teen, Nick Page grew up in Park City skiing moguls with Wasatch Freestyle. In Beijing, he led Team USA finishing fifth as his family watched from home. He and friends like Olympic teammate Cole McDonald are the future of freestyle skiing - just fun-loving young athletes who love ripping around the mountain.
“I think a big part of (the Utah sport culture) comes from the Salt Lake Olympics, and all the infrastructure that's been left in place for us to keep using. At Deer Valley Resort, we ski on Champion, the Olympic run. We train at the Utah Olympic Park. I know the Oval down in Salt Lake gets so much action. We're able to repurpose all that from 2002 and put it all back into the community to build these current level athletes, which is really special. I don't think that's something that always happens once a city has an Olympics.”
Check out this episode of Last Chair to hear from Utah’s own Team USA athletes, and learn more about how sport is positively impacting kids in the state.
Park City Nation
As the home of the most concentrated collection of Olympic venues in the state, the Park City Nation boasts 54 Olympians in Beijing from a half-dozen nations. Since the 2002 Olympics and Paralympics, the Youth Sports Alliance has introduced thousands of boys and girls to sport through its Get Out and Play and other programs. While every four years it gives locals a source of Olympic pride, what’s even more beneficial is the positive impact that sport has in providing life skills to kids of all ages and backgrounds.
Youth Sports Alliance
Formed following the 2002 Olympic Games, the Youth Sports Alliance introduces kids to sports and inspires them to keep moving throughout their lives. It provides a wide range of after-school programming to keep kids active through Get Out and Play and other programs, while also serving as a pipeline to winter sport clubs and competitions. One of its most valuable assets is the Stein Eriksen YSA Opportunity Endowment, a $2-million need-based scholarship fund for competitive athletes.
Emily Fisher: |00:00:18| Absolutely. I've been watching every night.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:20| You know, I'm still amazed at how many Utahns we have over in Beijing. I think Team USA, a full third of Team USA, is from Utah, from the state of Utah and in Park City, where you're based with the Youth Sports Alliance, I think what do you have? You have over 50 U.S. and foreign Olympians who base or train in Park City.
Emily Fisher: |00:00:43| Yes, we have 51 athletes who are representing Park City Nation, and that includes athletes that are homegrown. So they grew up here in Park City or Summit County or they are hometown. So they either moved here for the training opportunities with our local clubs or I live here now.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:00| Yeah, it is. It is really something that gives us a little extra something to root for. Give us a little bit of your background.
Emily Fisher: |00:01:07| Sure. So I grew up in Hanover, New Hampshire. I grew up skiing all different disciplines. When I was younger, I even competed in four event meets, which meant slalom and ski jumping in the morning and giant slalom and cross-country ski races in the afternoon made for a wild day with a lot of equipment. And then in high school, I specialized in cross-country skiing and ski jumping. And then I attended Middlebury College and skied cross-country for Middlebury for four years.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:37| Now we're going to talk a little bit more about Youth Sports Alliance. You're the executive director now, but your background in sport here, just in this community is rather extensive.
Emily Fisher: |00:01:45| Yeah, I moved here basically right after college and I began working for the U.S. ski team. I worked for the U.S. ski team for nine years through the 2002 games and the 2006 Games. After my kids were born, I took a small break and then went to work for the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation at the Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow, and then started with the Youth Sports Alliance in 2017. But I have always found my passion in sport and in winter sports specifically and have followed that passion.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:16| You have done a great job in following up a succession of great leaders at Youth Sports Alliance. Tell us a little bit about the organization and how it provides opportunities for kids.
Emily Fisher: |00:02:27| Yeah, I have to say that I wake up every single day and I'm so thankful for the people in town who founded the Youth Sports Alliance. It was founded just after the 2002 games, and basically it was to have a community effort to get all of the youth from Summit and Wasatch counties out using these amazing Olympic venues and getting as many kids out and active in our community playground.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:54| The 2002 Olympics were really a catalyst, and we've seen a lot of that in the Olympics so far, Beijing with some of these kids who are really motivated and we're going to talk today to a number of athletes who really came out of that period. Talk a bit about that legacy and how unique it is in this state that we have 20 years now after the Olympics. The legacy still lives on.
Emily Fisher: |00:03:21| The legacy absolutely still lives on. And I think what's so amazing is that my organization, the Youth Sports Alliance, can run after school programs and we can offer sports like luge, speed skating, Nordic jumping, freestyle skiing moguls, cross-country skiing, basically every Winter Olympic sport. We offer a program where kids can try it, see if they like it and then join local clubs. The only one, of course we don't have right now is bobsled. They don't let kids drive bobsleds. But other than that, kids can try any Olympic sport they would like.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:59| It really is fun. You have a specific program. Get out and play that has really been a conduit for a number of Olympians.
Emily Fisher: |00:04:07| Yeah, we are part of Park City Nation, we have three athletes that started in our Get Out and play program, which is basically just bite size. Come try a sport for four to six weeks. It's very affordable. So we have three athletes that started in that get out and play program that have now followed their passion all the way to the Olympic Games, which is just mind boggling.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:29| Now, a small percentage of these athletes make it to the games, and it's been wonderful to celebrate them over the past few days as the games are underway in Beijing. But really, sport goes so much further than that.
Emily Fisher: |00:04:42| I always say those three athletes are phenomenal PR stories for us right now, and it's so fun to watch and cheer for them knowing that they started in our community and our schools. But for me, it's really about the fifteen hundred kids that we get out and active every year. I think it's really important for every kid growing up in Park City. A lot of their parents work in the service industry, but they don't have the opportunity to use these amazing Olympic venues, get out, learn how to ski, learn how to snowboard. So I always think that is the most important legacy of our program, that these kids can grow up and feel part of the community because they participate in things that are so important to the community.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:20| One of the athletes we are talking to today about last year is Jared Shumate from Park City, and he's a Nordic combined skier, Nordic combined Olympian now in Beijing. He was an athlete who got his start in this really basic Get Out and Play program.
Emily Fisher: |00:05:36| Yeah, Jared was an athlete. He was a student here in Park City, and during one of those early release Fridays in the Winter, he was signed up for Get Out and Play ski jumping, decided to give it a try. Tried it, loved it. Join the local club. They put him into Nordic combined and now here he is, competing in Beijing.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:57| Yeah, he was really excited to talk to us and we'll hear from him in just a minute. Another one. We're featuring. Excuse me. Another one that we're featuring on this episode is Rosie Brennan, and while she didn't come out of one of your specific programs, she's a quintessential Park City story, you know, just taking advantage of the athletic opportunities we have.
Emily Fisher: |00:06:19| Absolutely. And part of the legacy of the Youth Sports Alliance is we have been supporting all of the local clubs here in town. That's one of the clubs that Rosie grew up in, and I just love her story because she didn't necessarily find cross-country skiing as a young kid. She came a little bit later, obviously wildly talented, but had the opportunity to take that passion and pursue it through college through her career in Anchorage. And we will definitely be going bananas and cheering for Rosie.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:49| You know, we're kind of clued in as Americans to watch Team USA, but in our community and in Utah, we have so many athletes who are skiing for international teams. And one that we're featuring in this episode is Brendan Newby: or Bubba to his friends. He's a native of Orem, just got started in sport and ended up making his way up here to Park City to practice his craft in half pipe skiing.
Emily Fisher: |00:07:17| But it is such a unique athlete and has such a passion for pipe skiing. I just love to talk to Bob. His energy is contagious, and he again was one of the athletes who was in one of our local clubs and had a point in his life where he was having a hard time affording the travel and training. So he applied for a scholarship through the Stein Eriksen endowment, and we were able to support him. And just to see some of our direct athletes scholarship funding make it to the Olympic Games again, it is just phenomenal. But it's also just about keeping all of these kids in sport during times in their lives where they may be facing challenges.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:55| And by the way, he is skiing for Ireland, correct?
Emily Fisher: |00:07:59| Yes, he is. He is skiing for Ireland and he will definitely be waving that Irish flag and it's wonderful to see him out there.
Tom Kelly: |00:08:08| Zoe and Izzy Atkin are also a couple of great skiers. Izzy winning the bronze medal in slopestyle skiing in Pyeongchang four years ago? They are both on the team, but they're on the team for Great Britain. They moved here to Park City for the same opportunities and they may not be representing Team USA, but they are certainly representing the Park City Nation with GB Snowsport.
Emily Fisher: |00:08:30| We are very proud of Park City Nation and of the Atkin sisters. I think Park City and really all of Utah is such a unique situation for athletes and students that grow up here. I think many students and athletes, if they're succeeding at a certain level, feel like maybe they should be going to a ski academy, maybe they should be separated from their families. But Park City really creates this unique situation where athletes and families can stay together and still train at a very elite level and pursue their dreams all the way to the Olympic Games.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:02| And finally, Alex Wilkinson, who is a skier who was just recently right before the games began, named the team a replacement for Breezy Johnson on the Alpine team. She actually got her start in sport right here in Park City lives elsewhere now, but she was a park for a number of years.
Emily Fisher: |00:09:20| Yeah, she was a park guy and she was a member of the Park City ski team for five years. And interestingly enough, she was also a member of the Figure Skating Club of Park City while she was having success as an alpine skier. Part of her balance and her edge work has been credited to her background in figure skating. So again, Park City just creates multisport athletes, athletes who can try so many different things, and many of them are training in several different sports on any single given day. I mean, there's just so many opportunities for athletes to try things and pursue things at an elite level.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:54| Last question. You've lived here now for quite a few years, and you've seen this culture of sport grow over time. What does it mean to be here in Utah to have this amazing culture of sport that emanated from the 2002 Olympics.
Emily Fisher: |00:10:08| Yeah, now that I have lived here for twenty three years, I think I can call myself a local, but what I love is true. We can go that far. I'm not sure I'm quite there yet. Right? Maybe twenty five years. I think actually, I've lived in Park City longer than I've lived anywhere else. But what I just love is when I moved here in 1998 to work for the U.S. ski team, there was not this legacy or there wasn't necessarily locals that you could turn to. And now, after the 2002 games there, the local youth here have so many athletes that they can look up to. They can see Billy Demong in the grocery store, they can see him competing at the town series, you know, right here at Utah Olympic Park. Derek Parra comes up and he teaches our Get Out and Play speed skating. It is rare, but there are Olympic champions everywhere and I think youth in our community and really in Utah in general, they see those Olympians, they see the Olympic champions and it makes the Olympics seem attainable. It makes those dreams something that's a reality and something that they're excited to pursue. And I just love that passion, and I love seeing that tradition of excellence.
Tom Kelly: |00:11:22| Emily, working parents find out more about your programs to get their kids involved.
Emily Fisher: |00:11:26| So all of our information is at YSRParkCity.org And there's volunteer opportunities. You can find out information about all of our programs and of course, there's always a donate button.
Tom Kelly: |00:11:39| Emily Fisher Thanks for joining us as executive director of the Youth Sports Alliance. Now, let's go talk to some athletes who are a part of the Park City nation.
Emily Fisher: |00:11:46| Absolutely. Go Team USA.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:20| And a big welcome to Olympian Jared Shumate from Park City. Hey, that sounds pretty cool, doesn't it?
Jared Shumate: |00:00:27| It does. Brings a smile to my face.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:30| So we're going to dive in a little bit to how you got here and how you got your start in the sport. But just the whole concept of being at the Olympics and being an Olympian, I'm sure this was a childhood dream for you.
Jared Shumate: |00:00:45| Absolutely, yeah. Growing up in Park City, every day on my way to school, just looking out the windows, I could see the Utah Olympic Park not knowing when I was three years old that I'd be going to the Olympics for that sport. So who knows, maybe it's been in me since I was a little kid.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:02| So Jared, you are a Nordic combined skier, which combines cross-country with ski jumping. Tell us a little bit about that sport, how it works and what attracted you to it.
Jared Shumate: |00:01:14| Yeah. So Nordic combined, like you said, is Nordic ski jumping mixed with cross-country skiing. So most of the time or events is the ski jumping competition first, and you get a certain amount of points based on your distance and how well you look, how well you jump. Based on your style points and then those points get converted into a cross country start list. So whoever wins the jumping starts the race first. And then there's a certain point calculation for how far behind you on the ski jumping hill determines how far back you start the cross-country race and then the first person across the line is the winner.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:56| Yeah, that's the part that I really love about Nordic combined is that when you get to that cross-country finale, it is head to head racing. What's that like? I definitely
Jared Shumate: |00:02:07| Am happy. I kind of swung towards Nordic combined based on ski jumping because after say, I don't have a good jump during a ski jumping competition, I know I can go fight it out during the cross-country race. And most of our races are only about twenty to twenty five minutes, so it's full on intensity. Like you said, head to head trying to beat everyone, everyone around you.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:32| Yeah, it is a great one to watch. Let's talk about how you got started. There's over 50 Olympians from Park City going to Beijing and all sorts of different sports from different nations. But you got your start through the youth sports alliances, get out and play program. Tell us about that.
Jared Shumate: |00:02:50| Yeah. So during elementary school, both of my parents were working during the days, so I was in the after school program anyway. And then when I was in fifth grade, we found out about the Get Out and Play program, where every Friday after school got out, you got on a bus and went to whatever sport club you chose. And for me, I chose ski jumping. So every Friday afternoon I got to go up to the Olympic Park for a couple of hours and just have fun. Going off to ski jumps at that point, didn't care about technique, didn't care about anything, didn't care about winning any competition. It was just all about having fun.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:27| You know, as the name implies, it is Get Out and Play, and I imagine that the whole focus was on fun when you were a young boy.
Jared Shumate: |00:03:35| Absolutely. Yeah. And I think with ski jumping every, every part about it's fun even now as a World Cup level competitor. Like going fast. Being in the air. Just the whole experience. Being with your friends. Playing in the snow on a Friday afternoon.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:54| Growing up in Park City, I know that you and your friends had a lot of sports opportunities. The legacy of the 2002 Olympics having been here. But how cool was it growing up to have all of these winter sports opportunities at your fingertips?
Jared Shumate: |00:04:09| It was unbelievable. Like I originally when I was maybe two or three years old, started alpine skiing and just had a blast doing that. And then through the Youth Sports Alliance and the get out and play, I found out about all these other disciplines within Alpine skiing. And I don't honestly quite know what drew me to ski jumping other than just the speed and the going off jumps. But considering I'm going to the Olympics now for Nordic combined, but I could have taken 10 different paths through the get out and play program. I'm happy it worked out the way it did.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:43| Let's talk a little bit about some of the other benefits of sport. You're in the small group that actually is going to the Olympics, but some of the other kids get so much more out of the sport. I've often looked at the power of sport and what it brings, but if you look at the life lessons that you've taken away from sport, what are some of those?
Jared Shumate: |00:05:03| I think for me, one of the biggest things that I've learned, I guess maybe biggest two are kind of independence and the importance of a work ethic. Because for me, I started traveling internationally without parents when I was 14 years old. So you've got to kind of learn how to fend for yourself in whatever country you're in. And then with work ethic, I think any sport, you know, there's the 10000 hour rule that it takes ten thousand hours to get somewhere. And for especially in endurance sport like Nordic combined, you've got to put in the work put in the hours. And the results may not come immediately, but being able to just continue working hard, I'm happy to see that it's it's coming along
Tom Kelly: |00:05:54| Now that you're an Olympian competing in Beijing at the Olympic Winter Games. What are some of the things that you hope to take away from your experience in China?
Jared Shumate: |00:06:04| Absolutely. Yeah, I kind of want to. This is obviously my first Olympics, so the Olympics itself is very daunting. Like I don't, I've never been here before, so I'm looking to kind of gain from the experience that I'm getting at these games and build that towards future games, because right now, it would definitely be a long shot to call myself a medal contender. But I think I can use the experience from these Beijing Games to be even more prepared for the next time around.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:34| In closing, Jared, any shout out you want to give to all of your friends in Park City at Youth Sports Alliance and everybody else in town?
Jared Shumate: |00:06:42| Absolutely. Yeah. To everybody listening, especially in the Youth Sports Alliance, programs start now. Have fun. Enjoy skiing with your friends and you know, if you're passionate about it, keep doing it. And who knows? Maybe I'll be on an Olympic team with you in the future.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:57| Jared Shumate, Park City Nordic combined skier, heading to Beijing for the Olympic Winter Games. Thanks, Jared.
Jared Shumate: |00:07:04| Yeah, thank you.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| I am with one of my very favorite athletes in Park City is Rosie Brennan. Rosie is one of the top skiers on the U.S. cross-country ski team. She is an Olympian going back for her second time to Beijing this year. And Rosie, thanks for joining us on Last Chair.
Rosie Brennan: |00:00:16| Thanks for having me, Tom. I'm excited to be here.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:18| So let's talk a little bit about your sport cross-country skiing and tell folks a little bit about what you do, what the distances are, how you train for it.
Rosie Brennan: |00:00:28| Yeah. Well, I might be biased, but I think cross-country skiing is the best sport and I think it's the best because we get to, you know, we're still out there enjoying the snow and that feeling of being, you know, free on the snow and gliding on the snow. But we also get the benefit of going up the hills, too, which is a great workout. It's very satisfying. It feels very good to work hard that way. But then you also get the fun of the downhills, cornering tactics, racing, all that kind of stuff. So in my mind, it's honestly just a sport that really combines everything, all types of athleticism, and I really enjoy that part. And we race. Our shortest race is a sprint race, which is about one and a half kilometers, and you do it in elimination rounds. And then our longest race for the women goes up to 30 kilometers and then we race distances in between as well. Most commonly, the 10 kilometer race is the most common distance. And then sprinting is, you know, our races are split not quite 50 50, maybe like one third to two thirds sprint and distance and some skiers specialized. But I really enjoy doing all of the distances. It just always brings a new challenge to every day. And we also have two techniques to skate technique, which is more lateral movement kind of like ice skating and then classic technique, which is more typical of what people think of when they think of cross-country skiing with a forward and backward movement. And again, some people are specialists, but I really enjoy the challenge of trying to perfect, perfect both techniques. So I like to race everything I can.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:07| Rosie, you grew up right here in Park City and when you were a young girl, I'm sure you had a lot of sport opportunities. What else did you do and how did you eventually make your way into cross-country?
Rosie Brennan: |00:02:19| So I moved ... I was born in Salt Lake, and I moved up to Park City when I was about two and my family ended up in Utah because they loved skiing, alpine skiing. And so that was something that I grew up doing. That was what our family did on the weekends. We went to the resort and we ski as a family. And so that has always been a part of my life and definitely part of the community in Park City as well. I did not Nordic Ski, then I did not grow up with Nordic skiing that came later. And, you know, as a kid, I did recreational soccer and some competitive soccer, a little bit of gymnastics and tennis. And then after the 2002 Olympics, suddenly there were tons of opportunities that opened up to try all kinds of winter sports for local kids. And so I did a skeleton camp with one of my friends, which is about as opposite of cross-country skiing as you can get. But it was a really cool experience to have to go down the skeleton track for a week or so. In Park City and then eventually I found myself as a middle schooler with a lot of energy and not much to do. And my mom told me I had to pick one of the activities, anything I wanted, but I had to find something to keep me busy. And she had gotten into cross-country skiing as an adult, and so she kept kind of, you know, suggesting it like, I wanted to have the Nordic team like, maybe that would be something you'd like to do. And eventually I didn't have a better idea, so I gave in and it was a perfect fit for me. And so I was 14 at that point and I jumped in the Park City Nordic Ski Club and yeah, never looked back from there. So it's been a great journey.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:12| Looking back 20 years, Rosie, when you were a young girl, how important were those 2002 Olympics in really getting you fired up about sport?
Rosie Brennan: |00:04:22| I mean, they were incredible. The first time I kind of became aware of the Olympics was during the 1996 games in Atlanta. I remember I was a young girl then and very into gymnastics and watching the gymnastics team win the Gold Medal. There was the first time that, you know, those kind of Olympic dreams were, I think, planted in my head. But I knew it wasn't going to be in gymnastics. I wasn't. I was very into it, but I was not particularly talented in it. And so, you know, I think I always had that kind of idea in the back of my head when the Winter Olympics came. We have three weeks off of school, and I was in seventh grade, which was a great age. My parents both worked, so they were gone during the day and so my brother and I were kind of left to our own devices and we were just that perfect age where we weren't quite into getting into trouble. But we were old enough to do some stuff on our own. So we'd take the city bus into Main Street and try to get all the free stuff and get autographs from athletes and watch the events on the TV and do all that kind of stuff. And then my family was also able to get a package of tickets. So we saw a huge variety of events throughout the games, which was really a great experience to just kind of like, see all these winter sports. And that really started to make me think about all the possibilities out there, all the sports that I could try. And we actually did go to quite a few cross country ski races because those tickets were really easy to get.
Rosie Brennan: |00:05:52| We had like one event, part of our package that we bought, and the venue was so great at Silver Hollow that my mom just went to the grocery store and they had more tickets. So she bought us some more and we kept going back to cross country. And it's funny because I didn't cross country ski at the time, but I'm sure, you know, like subconscious that had some sort of an impact on me. And then, you know, it was the next year that I started cross-country skiing. And of course, I think just having that image in my head of what an Olympic skier look like, like, I knew what cross-country ski was, what I was striving for, what it looked like at the top level. And so I think that was definitely impactful for me. And as well as having, I think a really big impact was my parents had a young Nordic combined athlete when he was like a few years older than my brother and he lived with us. He was training for the Olympics. And I think having a role model in the house like that was also very influential and like showing me what it took to become an elite athlete and what that kind of looks like. And that's all thanks to the Olympics and all the venues that were created, and it's becoming a really hot spot for athletes training at the highest level. And so those role models were all around. And I think that had a huge impact as well.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:10| It's always interesting to see what things influence youngsters and how their pasion moves forward. It's been 20 years since those games and you are going to Beijing as one of the top athletes in your sport. You will be challenging the world's best. Aside from the quest for medals that everyone dreams about, what is it that you really look at sport as having brought to your life?
Rosie Brennan: |00:07:37| Sport has brought me, honestly just about everything. I am so thankful for the opportunities that I've had. It's taught me honestly so much more than like, however many years of school I've done at this point in my life. But you know, it's putting a challenge out there and working hard towards it and then oftentimes coming up short, probably more frequently than not and then learning how to take that shortcoming process it, figure out what went well, what didn't go well and then work up the courage to go, take what you learned and apply it again. And that kind of process of going through those steps over and over again until you get to where you want to go. I think it's just been so incredibly powerful for me. And, you know, I guess maybe I've been a little bit of a slower learner in the process and it's taken me a while to get where I am. But I'm so appreciative to have had these opportunities and to have the time to go through that process because I really mean, what I love most is that challenge to like, take what I've learned from my shortcomings and apply them again and try to improve myself. And I feel like I'm. I finally had enough lessons where I'm in a place that I can be competitive and I'm really excited to just be in the race, to be a part of the race, to be in the mix and to have even the opportunity to make a move or to put myself in a place for for success. So I, yeah, I'm very, very grateful for that. And I think sport is so wonderful because it allows you the opportunity to take on challenges and to learn about yourself through a challenge.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:22| Rosie Brennan, thank you for joining us on Last Chair, the Ski Utah podcast. Do you have any big shout out you want to give to all the folks back in Park City and in Utah?
Rosie Brennan: |00:09:32| Yeah, thanks. Park City for all you've given me. I hope in return you'll stay up really late to cheer me on. In my races, the time change is less than favorable, but go Team USA.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:43| Thanks very much. Rosie Brennan, Olympian in Beijing.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| Joining us now is two-time Olympian Brendan Newby: from Ireland via Orem. So great to have you on Last Chair, the Ski Utah podcast.
Brendan Newby: : |00:00:12| Sweet. It's great to be here.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:14| So tell us a little bit about your sport. You're a halfpipe skier. How did you get involved in that and how Utah really helped to craft your opportunity to become a two time Olympian?
Brendan Newby: : |00:00:28| So I was born in Ireland and grew up skiing in Utah, and my dad took us to Brighton when I was four, and that's just kind of what we did. And then I've always really been into doing tricks on trampolines, going upside down, flipping off whatever I could. When I first learned flips on skis, my mom saw it and was like, All right, well, we're not going to get this guy to stop, so let's get him to do it safely. And she got me into the PC Park City Freestyle Ski Team. It was PC Free at the time. Now it's Park City Ski and Snowboard. And then I started working with them when I was about 13-14. And I mean, Park City has some of the best stuff for freestyle skiing around. They've got half pipes. Woodward now is a twenty two foot pipe and some of the best parks, so it's an easy place to get into it and then just learn there. I kept working with the ski team, stuck to it, and now here I am at my second Olympics.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:36| You know, it's kind of interesting. If you look around the Utah area, there are a lot of foreign athletes who are living and training in the area. I know that Ireland is not always known as a ski nation, but it does have a ski team, a snowboard team. Do you have much of a connection with some of the other Irish athletes who live in various places around the world?
Brendan Newby: : |00:01:59| Well, our snowboarder Seamus O'Connor, he actually lives in Park City and we became friends after Pyeongchang. We became best friends. We hang out all of the time. And then the other guys on the Irish team live all over? Like most of them are, they're all European. They all train out of Europe, so we don't get to see them too often, but we stay in touch and one of them tests our bay. She's French, she's really cool. She made it out to her second Olympics as well. So she's here.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:32| Good. Do you guys kind of connect when you actually do connect during the season at all or is it really these multi-sport events like Olympics to bring you guys together?
Brendan Newby: : |00:02:43| So during the season, we all have such different schedules that we, if we're lucky, will be at the same place in the world at the same time. But that's pretty rare. I mean, Seamus and I both do halfpipe. And so when those events will line up and we'll travel and train together all the time, but then the other ones we only see at big events like Olympics and then also Team Ireland holds, they send us all out to Dublin to do stuff at their sports institute, which is like the Team Ireland equivalent of the Center of Excellence in Park City. Except it's for all Olympic sports and not just a ski team gym. So I see them when we do team stuff out in Dublin,
Tom Kelly: |00:03:24| That's pretty cool. Utah has a lot of opportunities. Can you talk a little bit about, you know what growing up in Utah is meant to you and the opportunities that you've had in sport?
Brendan Newby: : |00:03:36| I mean, it's probably one of the most fun places to grow up everywhere you go. There's some type of awesome public lands to do fun stuff on like I'm a mountain biker and dirt biker as well, and I can basically go 20 minutes in any direction and have insanely good stuff to ride. There's fishing, there's all sorts of cool stuff. And then as far as winter sports goes, I mean, if you want to be a winter sport Olympian, Utah is kind of the place to do it for literally any sport because of the 2002 games and because the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation has kept up all of the facilities so well, good enough to hold international level events on them. Still there, like any winter sport you want to do from cross-country skiing, we even have one of the two bobsled tracks in the country. So if you want to slide really fast on ice, do it there. And I think having all these facilities just helps people really want to get into it and it makes it possible. You don't have to travel across the country to go train. You can just do it in your backyard and it's really, really nice and convenient and that aspect. I think the two thousand two Olympic slogan really plays here because like, you light the fire within, it's lit for a lot of people in Utah and making. Just go in their backyard and rip.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:02| So you were a young boy when those Olympics came to town? Do you have some memories of going to some of the events?
Brendan Newby: : |00:05:08| Yeah. Still, my dad took us to me and my brothers. He took us to a hockey game down in the Provo Ice Arena. I don't remember what teams were playing. I just remember the team. I wanted to win one, so that was cool. And then we also went to a cross country event at Soldier Hollow. I mean, I'm surprised. I still remember that because I must have been five or six at the time. And cross country is not exactly a spectator sport, but I still remember it. And I guess I just really wanted to be an Olympian ever since.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:41| Well, it's been fun to watch you and all the others growing up and competing here in Utah as we close out. Do you have any shout out you want to send the folks back home?
Brendan Newby: : |00:05:51| I want to give a huge shout out to my mom and dad. They never stopped believing in me, which I mean, my mom said after Pyeongchang that every kid tells their parents they want to be an Olympian. So she was like, Okay, cool. But I didn't think I'd actually pull it off. But she, even if she didn't think it at first, she never stopped supporting me and pushing me. And a huge shout out to my dad because like, without him, I wouldn't be a skier, so I wouldn't be where I am without either of them.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:20| Brendan Newby: , we wish you all the luck in Beijing and look forward to seeing you when you get back home in March in that Olympian parade in Park City. Coming up on April 1st,
Brendan Newby: : |00:06:30| I'll be there. I can't wait.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:02| And we have a real treat now with a couple of skiers who have grown up in Park City, moved here some years ago, and are in Beijing, competing at the Olympic Winter Games. Let's welcome Izzy and Zoe Atkin. Welcome to Last Chair, the Ski Utah podcast.
Izzy Atkin |00:00:19| Well, thanks for having us.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:20| Well, it's great to have you here, and I want to have you tell your story a little bit. And Izzy, if you could start out. Izzy, you are a bronze medalist from the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang in the slopestyle skiing event. Can you give a little bit of your background and then we'll go over to Zoe?
Izzy Atkin |00:00:38| Yeah, so I'm a slopestyle and big air skier, moved here, moved to Park City about nine years ago and just came up through the pipeline through the club programs there, started competing and really found a passion for it. I Discovered that I was good at it and just really enjoyed the community I had and pushing myself and competing.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:09| And Zoe, you ultimately chose the halfpipe route. What was your pathway to sport that's led you to Beijing?
Zoe Atkin: |00:01:18| Well, I started skiing both slopestyle and halfpipe though it was originally called Axis Free Ride, but now it's called Park City Ski and Snowboard with Hatch's program. And I basically grew up watching my sister ski and wanted to be like her. But then eventually I kind of became a little more timid about the jumps and the rails, so I kind of gravitated towards halfpipe and now I only see halfpipe and I love it. It's so much fun.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:47| Zoe, we'll start with you. But what is it about the atmosphere in Park City? It's become such a center for athletes. There are over 50 park city athletes from a number of different countries in Beijing for the Olympics. But what is it that's so special about Park City that makes it a great atmosphere for you as an athlete to train?
Zoe Atkin: |00:02:08| I think it's just a really great place to be because everyone loves just to be outside and to do what they love to do like skiing, snowboarding, being outdoors and everyone or a lot of people kind of have that athlete mindset. I went to a school called the Winter Sport School, and it was basically a whole school of winter sport athletes. So it was great to be in that community and we all pushed each other. And yeah, everyone just kind of has that drive to be outside and have fun. But also, like push themselves in sport.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:38| Izzy, were you also in the Winter Sports School, right? Yeah. And what are the things that you find attractive in Park City and in Utah as an athlete, now a two time Olympian, that's really made this a great place for you to have your training base.
Izzy Atkin |00:02:55| Yeah, I think, Zoe, put it really well. We have just great outdoor access here to all of the sports that I enjoy doing, obviously the Winter School to kind of allowing us to have that sport school balance that is harder on a traditional semester system. And then also just all of the amazing club programs and facilities we have here, like the Utah Olympic Park, obviously park city ski and snowboard, ski and snowboard. We also used to ski with Wasatch mogul skiing. So yeah, there's just a lot of opportunities to kind of get into sport here.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:35| Izzy you were in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang and South Korea. Obviously a good experience because you came away with a medal. But what was that experience like in being with athletes from so many other nations?
Izzy Atkin |00:03:49| Yeah, it was incredible. It was the first experience I'd ever had like that, obviously my first Olympics, but just kind of to have all those incredibly driven athletic people in one bubble and kind of like getting to know other people's stories, how they got to where they are today. And just like that mindset in the village is super motivating, and it was just an amazing experience for me to even go there. Obviously, when I started skiing slopestyle, I didn't. It wasn't an Olympic sport, so I didn't. It wasn't something I expected in my future. I didn't, not when I was younger. It was something I looked to was going to the Olympics. It was X Games at the time because that was kind of the pinnacle of our sport. But so just to even be there and experience that to just experience the Olympics was incredible. And I didn't expect to go in there and win a medal, but it was just amazing to come out with that.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:59| Zoe has your older sister giving you any advice or counsel as you head to your first Olympic Games.
Zoe Atkin: |00:05:08| Um, yeah, a lot, I mean, not just for the Olympics, but for everything I do, she gives me so much advice and helps me so much and inspires me. But I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself. So she's told me a lot of times just to try and enjoy the experience because it's like a once in a lifetime experience and there's nothing there's nothing like it.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:30| Is there anything, Zoe, that you're really looking forward to at the Games, I know you're excited to get into the half-pipe, but any other experience that you'd like to take away from your first Olympics.
Zoe Atkin: |00:05:43| I mean, honestly, I'm kind of just excited to experience the vibe of the Olympic Village with all those athletes like, as Isobel said, meeting all these people from around the world like these insanely talented and extremely hardworking people and. Yeah, I feel like it's always really interesting to be around like athlete mindsets and to see. Yeah. How they are outside of their sport.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:09| Oh, that's great. Just to wrap it up. Is he any shout out that you'd like to give to all the folks back home in Utah?
Izzy Atkin |00:06:18| Yeah, obviously, just so much love to our parents. They've really pushed us and given us so many opportunities to excel at what we do. Hatch for kind of bringing us up when we were younger through the program, through the pipeline and just everyone back home cheering us on.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:41| Zoe, how about you? Final shout out to the friends back home.
Zoe Atkin: |00:06:46| Um, everyone who's ever supported me like that helped me reach my dreams because this has been a dream for such a long time to go to the Olympics, so I'm really excited.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:55| Isabelle and Zoe Atkin, thank you for joining us on last year and all the best to you. Good luck in Beijing.
Izzy Atkin |00:07:02| Thank you so much.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| And we're honored to have with us now Olympian Nick Page, moguls skier extraordinaire, and Nick, actually you've actually finished your competitions, an amazing fifth place finish in your first Olympics. Congratulations.
Nick Page: |00:00:14| Oh, thank you, Tom. I appreciate you having me on.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:17| It's great to have you and hear your voice from a different part of the world. Let's talk a little bit about your background and how you got into moguls skiing here in Park City.
Nick Page: |00:00:27| That's what started out really around the time of the 2010 Olympics. I watched Bryon Wilson win a bronze medal in Vancouver and at the time I had just joined Wasatch Freestyle, which was based out of Park City skiing at Deer Valley. And it was so cool, because Bryon. It came from that same organization and I was just starstruck thinking about someone that was in a position like I was just won an Olympic medal and I knew that's what I wanted to do. So it all started there.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:57| Did you have any connectivity with the Olympics before that? I know that you were too young to be here and your family wasn't here in 2002. But even before you saw twenty ten, were you aware of the Olympics and the opportunities that a young man might have in sport?
Nick Page: |00:01:12| You know, I did. I think I've watched every Olympics really in depth since 2008 that I know of. I remember sitting in bed with my parents, watching Michael Phelps in Beijing and stuff, which is pretty cool. But that was kind of my first big memory of it. And ever since then, I've been a huge Olympic fan every, every two years, but really every four years when it rolls around.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:37| You know, one of the things that we've been very conscious of here in Utah is how many Utahns are in Beijing. In fact, a third of Team USA across all sports are athletes who have a connection. Yeah, I mean, they have a connection to Utah. They're based here and in Park City alone, there's more than 50 from Team USA and other nations. What is it about the park city area and Utah in general that's so attractive to athletes?
Nick Page: |00:02:03| You know, I think a big part of it comes from the Salt Lake Olympics, and I think all the infrastructure that's been kind of left in place for us to keep using and keep keep squeezing out from 2010 and all the venues. And you look at Deer Valley, I mean, we see on Champion, the Olympic run. We train at the Utah Olympic Park. I know the Oval down and Salt Lake gets so much action and so much use that we're really we're able to repurpose all that from 2002 and put it all back into the community to build these, these current level athletes, which is really special because I don't think that's something that always happens once a once a city has an Olympics.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:46| Yeah, it is really a little bit unusual to have it at this depth. You know, as you're just hanging around in town, are you running into athletes from other sports? You're a mogul skier, but are you running into and hanging out with snowboarders or alpine skiers and skaters and bobsled and losers?
Nick Page: |00:03:03| Yeah, absolutely. We see each other all over the place, which is really cool, especially just out of our bill or out of our building at U.S. Ski and Snowboard. It's pretty inspiring and pretty cool to walk in there. And you know, I remember my first year on the Ski Team. I was lifting weights with Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman, just as a 17 year old walking around with two superstars. But being able to see everyone and see all that the park city and the Utah community has done is really inspiring.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:35| You know, it's a big honor. I know to become an Olympian, and I'm guessing that you'll be leaving Beijing with a pretty good feeling about how you performed athletically on that big night.
Nick Page: |00:03:47| Absolutely. Yeah, it was. It was a fun night. It was cool to step through all the rinks and I was almost kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel, making it through each round. But then by the end, I was able to put down my best friend of the night in the medal round when it mattered most, which was really cool. It was a nice, nice way to cap it all off.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:07| You know, it's an interesting format for freestyle now, and you've got to get into each one of these successive rounds to get into that final round of six. You were sitting right there on the bubble, and all of a sudden you're in. I mean, what was your thinking when you went into that final round of six? I was thinking? I got a chance here?
Nick Page: |00:04:25| Absolutely. Yeah, I remember I was in a spot where before that round of 12 to get into the sets, I'd get a pretty good run and I put myself in a spot where I needed. I needed some action from the other guys to give me a chance to be in the six, and it was hard looking up that leaderboard because there are so many really high class names that were coming down. I knew it was going to tight and it worked out in my favor, which was lucky. And then by the time that I got up to that round of six run, it was like. Out here we are. You know, I had worked all these all these months since March, basically with this on my mind and then, you know, you go back four years where it was all for that little 20 second window, which was pretty special to make it there.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:14| It was interesting on NBC that night to watch not just you compete, but to watch your family and Cole McDonald's family all gathered at like 4:00 in the morning at the family home in Park City. When you talk to your folks after the competition, what did they have to say to you?
Nick Page: |00:05:31| They were so excited. I actually called them this morning to touch base a little bit. And, you know, we just talked through everything. They were so excited after the event, and I think they're probably on about as much of the Chinese time zone that I am because they can stand up.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:50| Yeah, it's been amazing to watch you. Nick, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us a little bit. Do you have a shout out you'd like to send out to all your friends and supporters back in Utah?
Nick Page: |00:06:01| You know, Tom, I think the biggest thing is just, I can't express enough gratitude to everyone in my corner. Everyone in the Park City community. I mean, they've done so much for me just to get me to this point. I can think of all the people that have supported me athletically through schools, through, you know, just the people in Park City. When you run into them on a chairlift or in the grocery store that tell you that they're going to be cheering for you when they see you on TV, every person like that just needs the biggest thank you. Thank you. That means the world.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:31| Well, it means a lot to us to have somebody like you to cheer for. You're a good representative of Utah. Nick Page, mogul, skier, Olympian fifth in the Olympic moguls competition. Thanks for joining us on the last chair.
Nick Page: |00:06:45| Thanks, Tom.