Olympic spotlight shines on many
Ted Ligety, Joey Cheeks, Chad Hedrick – who are these guys?Those are some of the golden boys from Team USA, and athletes few of us have ever heard of.Until now. And after the flame leaves Italy, names that we may never hear about again. As least not for another four years.As the Olympics began, the spotlight was shining bright on the likes of Bode Miller, Apolo Anton Ohno, Sarah Hughes, Shaun White, Gretchen Bleiler and Michelle Kwan.That spotlight was and is justified.But sometimes it’s not the people in the spotlight who leave their mark, it’s the ones who grab the spotlight once the games begin who earn the attention.The Olympic stage is like none other. Some flourish while others struggle. The Winter Games oftentimes are about the kings and queens of the short-lived spotlight. Once the Games are over, most athletes return to regular jobs and mundane lives, just like the rest of us.There’s not much you can do with extraordinary luge skills in the real world; the ability to skate quickly around an oval doesn’t really translate into big endorsement dollars, either.Joey Cheek has a gold medal and might win another. He donated his $25,000 bonus check for that gold medal to charity. A gold medal winner with a heart of gold, too.It makes you wonder if Bode Miller will leave Italy with either.The greats will move on and conquer other mountains. The spotlight will again find the superstars – the Bodes, the Kwans, the Jeremy Blooms.For the likes of a Rebecca Dussault, of Gunnison, her 48th place finish in the 7.5K cross-country pursuit race was not about medals, endorsements or the spotlight. It was about being an Olympian and embracing the moment. Forty-eighth place among the world’s best ain’t bad.No glory but plenty of guts.As with every Olympiad, there will be those gold medal winners that will fade into history as footnotes to Olympic lore. But for the Ligetys, Cheeks, Hedricks and others, 2006 was their moment to shine, their moment to soak up a little of the spotlight.Other Olympic heroes will surface as the Games continue.Afterwards, it’s back to the real world and real jobs, college and dreams that don’t include a spotlight. For Todd Lodwick, of Steamboat, his third trip to the Olympics will once again be void of a medal. As the greatest Nordic combined athlete in U.S. history he’s sacrificed so much. Now, as a new father, his dreams will shift from Olympic rings to nursery rhymes.For Tony Beeshoof a fourth-place finish in the luge was so close to the first-ever U.S. medal in the event. So close but not medal, and now it’s back to work at Home Depot.As Ligety ripped the spotlight from Bode Miller for one day, his time in the spotlight will be brief compared to the headline-grabbing Miller.But Ligety has a gold medal while Bode has endorsements and more headlines than a trigger-happy vice president.What’s more valuable? Depends on who you ask.Whether Bode Miller is golden at the Olympics isn’t really that important. He, along with a couple of other superstars, will be laughing all the way to the bank.Their future is about remaining in the spotlight. Their talent earned them the spotlight.But the Olympics is about so much more than a spotlight or a medal.Even the charismatic White was humbled by the power of the Olympic spotlight. Calling the pressure “X Games times 10,” the 19-year-old snowboarding phenom overcame that pressure to take gold. Then he cried a little, celebrated a little and understood what the Olympics mean.It’s Team USA, it’s not Team Me.More than 230 U.S. athletes made the trip to Italy. Few will ever see the spotlight. Others will never see the spotlight again. For the Cheeks and Ligetys and others who enjoyed their 15 minutes of Olympic fame, it will always be special.Then it will be back to the real world.Most will continue skiing, skating and maybe even luging once in a while, but when the flame leaves, so will the spotlight.Back to the real world.The spotlight isn’t reserved for just for superstars. Joey Cheek showed that, Ted Ligety showed that, Chad Hedrick showed that.They grabbed the spotlight and showed that the Olympics are about regular people who don’t make headlines or don’t have endorsement deals.For the unknown stars of this Olympiad, their time in the spotlight is special, mostly because they know what’s next.Back to the real world where the dreams are different and the spotlight is a distant memory.Dale Shrull is the managing editor at the Post Independent
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