Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Catch the Olympic spirit and become an Olympian without leaving Utah (9 items)

By , For the Deseret News

Jan. 27, 2014

The Winter Olympics arrived in Utah in February of 2002 ... and never really left.

Since 2002, almost on a daily basis in Utah in colder months, there are bobsleds streaking down the icy track, speed skaters gliding on the oval, stones sliding down the lane, skiers carving turns and snowboarders getting air.

Those participating are, in many cases, new to the Olympic experience. Occasionally a trained athlete will test tracks and courses, but for the most part participants are people coming from homes, schools and non-Olympic backgrounds to at least sample the Olympic experience.

Of the 15 events scheduled in Sochi, Russia next month, nine are available to would-be Olympians here in Utah.

They include bobsled, skeleton, hockey, skating, curling, cross-country skiing, biathlon, alpine skiing and snowboarding.

So, for those wanting to try an Olympic event here’s a list:

1 of 9. Bobsled

The Utah Olympic Park provides the four-person sled and one professional driver for what some have tagged “the ride of a lifetime.’’

The bobsled ride lasts just under one minute, but in that time riders negotiate 15 turns, hit speeds upwards of 80 miles per hour and pull up to 5 G forces. The maximum G force of the space shuttle at liftoff is 3, driver of a top-fuel dragster hit 4 and on a peak lateral turn a Formula One driver experiences a 5.

The ride itself is noisy, teeth-rattling and visually limiting. But, bragging rights go with the ride and the claim, “I did it.’’

Cost is $200 per person per ride. Reservations are required. Riders must be 16 or older, and anyone with health issues is advised to be a spectator.

For information and reservations call 435-658-4206 or visit www.utaholympiclegacy.com.

2 of 9. Skeleton

This is a one-on-one-on-one event at the Utah Olympic Park. That is, one person on one sled on one track traveling face first. The sled is slightly larger than a serving tray and the view is all white.

From the prone position, because of the G forces, it’s difficult to take the eyes off the ice. Riders take only a section of the track -- four turns -- but hit speeds upwards of 50 miles per hour.

This, too, is another of the I-did-it events and adds a whole new perspective to the Olympic event.

Riders must be 14 and older and, again, those with any health problems are advised to watch. The cost is $50.

For information and reservations call 435-658-4206 or visit www.utaholympiclegacy.com.

>> United States Noelle Pikus-Pace finishes at the Skeleton World Cup race at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah, Dec. 7, 2007.

3 of 9. Skating

It is possible at the Utah Olympic Oval to try figure skating and speed skating. In order to try speed skating, however, individuals must show their skills on skates.

Neither event is easy and anyone attempting to skate has a much greater appreciation for the Olympic competitors.

Spins and jumps are not easy, nor is gliding around the Oval’s speed track, consider to be the “fastest ice in the world.’’

Individuals can go to the rink and simply lace up and step out into the ice to free skate.

But to reach the next level — speed skating — a person must complete lessons in Skating 1 and 2 ($60 for six lessons) or prove to the instructor their skating skills.

The speed skating class is $50 , which covers six sessions and speed skates.

For information and lesson reservations call 435-658-4206 or visit www.utaholympiclegacy.com.

4 of 9. Hockey

It’s probably the most difficult event to get into, simply because it involves a team. But, there are a number of places where hockey can be a learned sport.

The Olympic Oval, for example, offers everything from a learn-to-play for kids 4 to 14, to club play for kids and adults, to adult leagues.

For information and schedules call 435-658-4206 or visit www.utaholympiclegacy.com.

>> Looking through the hockey glass at the Peaks Ice Arena in Provo Max Rabner makes adjustments on Daniel Christensen's helmet, a 3rd grader from Edgemont Elementary, before he and others go out on the ice for a sledding race.

5 of 9. Curling

Curling was, in 2002, one of the most watched events, possibly because it is interesting and unique. It involves a four-person team, 10 innings and a 42-pound granite stone sliding along a 150-foot sheet of ice. At each end of the ice is a scoring circle.

Points are based on the stones' proximity to the centermost circle. Team members sweep the ice in front of the stone to adjust speed and direction. Faster sweeps heat up the ice for speed, slower sweeps cool it down to slow it down.

The Ice Sheet at Ogden was the official curling venue. These days curling responsibilities fall on the Ogden Curling Club. When it can it rents the Ice Sheet for curling instruction. The next curling day will be Feb. 12. For information visit www.ogden-curling-club.com.

Meanwhile, the Olympic Oval has regular curling instruction. A Learn to Curl class for those eight and older is available for a fee of $12 on Monday and Friday. Curling equipment — brooms and stone — are provided. Individuals are advised to wear comfortable clothing and athletic shoes.

For information call 435-658-4206 or visit www.utaholympiclegacy.com.

>> Canada competes against Norway during the men's curling final at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in Ogden, Utah on Friday, Feb. 22, 2002.