When it comes to collecting, it’s easy to say that the Winter Olympic games and the United States team don’t rival the attention, adoration and marketability of many major league and some college sports teams when it comes to the popularity of memorabilia. It could be the fact that the games fill just two weeks over fours years and the highest visibility for the athletes comes during the weeks prior to the games. Or it could just be that Olympians aren't appreciated as much as athletes in other sports.
This was no more apparent than a recent ESPN Sportsnation poll taken after the Super Bowl where respondents were asked what they looked most forward to next: Winter Olympics, Daytona 500 or the start of spring training and the upcoming baseball season. The latter was on top by a significant margin.
However the commitment many of these athletes display easily equals, and in many cases, far exceeds the commitment of many professionals. Although there are always several standout participants, the attention is more cult-like.
The winter games and New England are certainly no strangers. The region’s participants, both born and bred, and those who may have relocated here, have contributed greatly to the glory of past games. The climate in the northeast certainly helps to spawn the interest for many of the sports that are represented in the games.
The closest location New Englanders can go to view the site of past games is Lake Placid. Located in upstate New York, which hosted not one, but two of the prior events (1932, 1980) in the U.S. including being the site of the historic “Miracle On Ice” when the 1980 USA ice hockey team upset the field and won the gold. For the fan, it’s also a place where one can actually experience a real bobsled ride on a former Olympic track among other attractions.
The New England region has been blessed with many famous, and not so well known, figures that have either fulfilled the promise of glory or realized personal disappointment in not achieving their ultimate goal of winning an Olympic medal, or just participating well.
Already this year the first two gold medal winners for the USA are from New England. On Saturday Hannah Kearney, a Norwich, VT native, won the top prize in the women’s moguls freestyle skiing event. Monday, Seth Wescott successfully defended his 2006 gold in the snowboard cross. Wescott was born in North Carolina, but his parents moved to Farmington, ME, when he was two years old.
So what might be included in that dream collection representing this part of the country? How about starting with a hockey stick and a jersey signed by the famed hockey team including Winthrop born Mike Eruzione, team captain. Certainly that would make a fine centerpiece.
Although he never won a medal, Fitchburg born Art Longsjo competed in both the 1956 Winter and Summer games, in speed skating and cycling, respectively, and most certainly his memorabilia belongs. He was killed in an auto accident at the age of 26.
Although she never won the gold as many thought she would (she won bronze in 1992 and silver in 1994), Woburn born Nancy Kerrigan’s ice skates would certainly be a popular item.
Another current Olympian Easton, NH, born Bode Miller’s skis might be there. He added a bronze on Monday to his two previous silver medals.
What would be in your collection?
Above left: Hannah Kearney of the USA during the final run in women's moguls at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Above right: Seth Wescott of the USA, right race Nate Holland of the USA, left and Fabio Caduff of Switzerland, center, left during the snowboardcross 8th final at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Monday, Feb. 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)
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