Olympians Tell Their Stories – Part 1 of 2

The Road to Sochi featured Olympic athletes in a panel moderated by Boston Globe reporter John Powers. A Globe Insiders event co-sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance, the panel took place at the Park Plaza hotel on January 10. Courtesy image

By Hannah Graney

While the Women’s Olympic Ice Hockey team practiced at The Edge in Bedford, one of the legends of the program, Angela Ruggiero, was in Boston speaking about her time playing in four Olympics. She was joined by Picabo Street (U.S. Olympic Alpine Skiing Legend), Chris Klug (U.S. Olympic Snowboarding Legend), and Patrick Meek who, after three years of trying out for the speed skating team, will finally compete in Sochi.

On February 7th, the U.S. Olympic athletes will be walking in the Opening Ceremonies in Sochi, Russia. To get the fans of Boston excited, Liberty Mutual Insurance and the Boston Globe held a “Road to Sochi” event on January 10 for Olympic athletes to tell their stories. Globe reporter John Powers moderated the panel.

All athletes know injuries happen but the important thing is how to deal with then afterward. Chris Klug shared his story with the room. He had a liver transplant just a few years before he earned a medal in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. He is the first and so far the only organ transplant survivor to go on and compete at an Olympic level. How did he do it? He stayed positive, worked hard and was rewarded not only by winning a medal but also by receiving the honor of carrying the flag at the 2002 opening ceremonies, a flag from the rubble of 9/11.He cherishes that memory above most because it was all about the journey for him and being able to carry that flag meant that all of his hard work paid off. Klug said he had hope and he held on to that hope through all of the obstacles in his life. He hoped for himself and for his fellow Americans. When asked about one of the most important training tips for the younger generation, he responded with “train as you race and race as you train.” The combination of consistency, positivity, and hope were his ultimate tools in being successful in the Olympics.

Picabo Street, former skier and a Gold medal winner in the 1998 Olympic Games, retired and now has four boys. Instead of bragging about her successes, she decided to take another route, sharing her adventures from around the world with her sons. She tells them all about the different cultures she experienced and languages she has learned. Her family has always meant a lot to her, Street said. While she competed, she always knew she had their support no matter the outcome. Her belief: through injuries and tough times, the most important thing as an athlete is to have people who believe in you and are willing to go that extra mile to help you reach your full potential. When asked about the attitude of athletes training for the Olympics she answered, “failure to prepare is preparing to fail,” and “athletes are hungry. All the time.” They always want the best outcome and in order to achieve that, they must have patience, positivity, and support. Street hopes the next generation motivates themselves the same way. Now she can’t wait to watch them go out and fight.

Angela Ruggiero has participated in the most Olympic games of all the athletes who attended the Road to Sochi, and said she learned many things through her experiences but one stands out more than others: The importance of team. She loves all her teammates and she knows they will still be friends when they’re old and can’t walk. While on a team, one has to give and take. “The sacrifices you see your teammates make, make you better. Whether it’s scoring the game-winning goal or cheering on from the bench,” everyone feels genuine happiness to play their part. Teams in general only work if everyone knows their place and does what is expected from them. With Ruggiero’s team, that was the case times ten. Every single person contributed to making the team as good as possible.

In the end, after all the Olympians shared stories and answered questions from the audience, it became apparent how happy they truly are. They have worked countless hours to become the very best possible and it has paid off tenfold. Their motivation while training is to be some of the best in the world and guess what? They made it. They have all been through so much but it is worth it to be able to compete for their country and make the people proud. All of the speakers seemed very down to earth while talking about the magnificent feats they had already accomplished. The message they got across was how important it is to stay positive. Positivity and confidence; in yourself and your teammates.



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