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Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

What a week for the Olympians of the Roaring Fork Valley.

Two weeks from Friday, six athletes with roots in the Roaring Fork Valley (from Glenwood to Aspen) will be representing their country, their towns and themselves at the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. That is an amazing concentration of talent to hail from one place and we should be mighty proud of all of them.

Start with Casey Puckett, the pride of Old Snowmass. Five Olympic teams made? Are you kidding me? He has been making the Olympic Team like clockwork for 18 years.

Casey began skiing in Crested Butte when he was just 3 years old. In the ensuing 34 years, he has walked the Opening Ceremonies in Albertville, France (1992), Lillehammer, Norway (1994), Nagano, Japan (1998), Salt Lake City (2002), Torino, Italy (2006) and, in two weeks, Vancouver, Canada. That’s more travel than most people do in a lifetime and Casey had to earn his way to each Games. Imagine how many stamps there on his passport.

And now Casey passes it on as Alice McKennis of Glenwood Springs makes the team. Alice, who was tutored by Casey when she was just another Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club kid with a dream, surprised everyone by garnering a pair of top 20 finishes this year. Twenty years old and on the cusp of a great downhill career, Alice will gain invaluable experience at Whistler-Blackcomb and, who knows, could create another surprise.

Then there is the incredible tale of Jake Zamansky, who left the U.S. Ski Team to follow his own path to the Games. The Carbondale resident put on a show of courage and determination that should inspire us all, even if he had not made the team. But now that he has, let’s hope his story of individual grit resonates for us all. Be sure to catch Zamansky on Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC where he will be appearing in the documentary film “Truth in Motion: The U.S. Ski Team’s Road to Vancouver.”

Chris and Gretchen. No last names are even needed around here to identify our local Olympic royalty.

Chris’s story is as amazing as ever, even if it has become so familiar to all of us since he first competed in 2002 in Salt Lake after overcoming his medical maladies. Since then he has done so much for the community and his cause through the Chris Klug Foundation promoting organ donations globally.

Gretchen is on the verge of becoming a cross-over star and a solid finish, dare I say it, a win, would propel her into the stratosphere. How you gonna keep her down on the farm now that she has been on Conan?

And then there is the U.S. Men’s Figure Skating Champion, Jeremy Abbott. Yes, he now skates out of Michigan and he did leave Aspen for Colorado Springs to pursue his dream but, damn it, we are going to root for him like he lived on Main Street and never left the Ice Garden. His assent to the top of the American Men’s podium is as inspiring as the stories of all the other local Olympians.

It’s going to be a good watch. Go Team Aspen.


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