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A Celebration of Olympic Proportions
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Sunday, April 17, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Chase Josey had to lay down an Olympic run in the halfpipe at Beijing without hundreds of fans around to create a buzz.

That wasn’t the case Thursday evening when dozens of hometown fans gathered around him seeking autographs and small talk during a celebration of Sun Valley’s Olympians and Paralympians at Sun Valley Resort’s Warm Springs Lodge.

Josey, now a two-time Olympian, received a sweater-jacket and flowers from the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation during the ceremony, along with the keys to the City of Sun Valley. Joining him were Paralympians Jesse Keefe and Jake Adicoff and Sam Wood, who brought home a gold and two silver medals for their Nordic ski efforts.

Missing was Nordic Olympian Kevin Bolger, who is in Sweden until early May.

“It was an atypical Olympics without audiences…yet you still got out there and did it,” Sun Valley City Council member Michelle Griffith told them.

Josey made the Olympics Snowboard Team after recuperating from a high-ankle injury “just in the nick of time”—something he credited Drs. Tom Archie and John Hatzenbuehler for, along with the rest of the Sun Valley community.

“It was unreal to qualify for my second Olympics,” he told the crowd. “Right after I practiced for the finals, I found myself alone with a beautiful sunrise and I felt like an energy--like all this hard work coming to fruition and everything was going to be alright. And I felt it was coming from this community. I love saying, that I’m from Hailey, Sun Valley, the Wood River Valley. I couldn’t have done it without all of you.”

As he did four years ago, Josey made the U.S. Olympic team by laying down one of the best runs of his life in the final qualifying competition, said SVSEF Snowboard Coach Andy Gilbert.

Josey said the halfpipe in Beijing, which boasted a replica of the Great Wall in snow, was one of the best halfpipes he’d ever competed in. The tricks from the Japanese competitors were the best he’s ever competed against.

“The level of competition just exploded. But to have Shaun White there, to see him there on the team, was something special. He laid the groundwork for the halfpipe and to see him be there for one last competition, to see him put in all that work and ride at that high level, was really cool,” said Josey, who finished in seventh place.

Gilbert recounted that he didn’t know what to do with Josey when he first showed up for the SVSEF’s snowboard team because at the time he didn’t have 10-year-olds doing what Josey was doing.

“But we had an incredible group of older kids who accepted him and, if an 18-year-old threw down something in the pipe, Chase would try to copy it,” he said. “He was always telling me, ‘I think I’m going to do the hard thing,’ and time and time Chase would go off and make the hard thing look easy.”

 

Gilbert noted that kids like 12-year-old Naomi Gorringe, who finished seventh in the halfpipe at Junior Nationals, have continued to follow in the tracks set down by Josey and Bellevue’s Olympic Gold Medalist Kaitlyn Farrington, even though they have to go to Park City to board a halfpipe.

“Bald Mountain lends itself to pipe riding because our kids know how to do an edge because it’s so steep,” he said. “It’d be great for us to have a halfpipe for the kids to learn the fundamentals. We don’t need a 22-foot pipe like Mammoth and Copper—a 16- or 17—foot pipe would be all we need. We’re just lucky we have two halfpipes four hours away.”

Sam Adicoff and Sue Connor were in Park City in a room surrounded by big screens showing every facet of the Olympics live as they watched their visually impaired son Jake compete in his third Paralympics with his best friend Sam Wood serving as Jake’s guide.

They learned to cheer for the NBC cameras on cue—and sometimes ahead of an event. And they waved around placards showing their son’s face, as well as American flags. In the spirit of the occasion, Adicoff passed around tiny American flags to those attending Thursday’s celebration as his son and Wood showed off their medals—each of which weighed 1 and a half pounds.

Adicoff had retired to pursue a software career after competing at the Paralympics in Sochi and South Korea. But when COVID hit he returned from the Bay area to his parents’ home in Elkhorn and began showing up at rollerski practices with SVSEF Nordic Gold Team.

“These aren’t something you do for fun,” said Nordic Coach Chris Mallory. “Then he called a year and a half ago and said, ‘I want to make another run at it.’ He was fully in this time, and it was awesome seeing him go 100 percent-. It was amazing and the results were amazing.”

Sam Wood, a member of the SVSEF’s elite Gold Team, described how he worked with Adicoff to find just the right pace so Adicoff could keep him in his sights as they skated around the tracks. Wood stepped to the side, allowing Adicoff to cross the finish line first during the gold medal relay.

“It’s such an important moment for an athlete. I wanted him to have that,” he said.

Jesse Keefe had never flown in a plane before he made the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Ski Team. Now the 17-year-old from Bellevue is jet setting from one World Cup ski venue to another.

“This Paralympics was an opportunity to feel it, touch it, experience it, and he was very excited meeting people from all over the world and realizing he could participate on a big stage like that,” said his mother, Krista Gehrke.

Keefe said he relished the opportunity to see the Great Wall despite the many COVID restrictions and to eat the Chinese food served in the athletes’ dorm.

“The manmade snow was awesome in my opinion—pretty good snow for China. I became friends with kids from Sweden and the Netherlands as we played ping pong and pool, and we had only one case of an athlete getting COVID,” he said.

Keefe landed a top 10 finish despite his youth and came back to Sun Valley fired up to try for the podium in the next Paralympics. He won’t have to wait long to get started. After skiing in Nationals last week,  his first camp will be May 5 as he skis two weeks on and two weeks off in Europe and other venues.

SVSEF Director Scotty McGrew told the athletes that it’s important for a community to be inspired by  people like them that make so many sacrifices to train.

“Thanks for inspiring us and showing us what it looks like at the top. You’re paving the way for the next generation of kids,” he said.

Sun Valley’s General Manager Pete Sonntag said he’s lived in a lot of mountain communities and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation is the best such organization he’s had the chance to work with.

“And it’s my job to make sure that relationship keeps going,” he added. “It’s an awesome association for us. We get to be able to provide the training grounds…and we’re going to keep that going.”

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