I remember the very first time I watched the Olympics. I was 8 years old and had watched the drama unfold at the United States Figure Skating National Championships weeks before the world wide competition, and I couldn’t wait to see who would show up with their best skating in Lillehammer, Norway.
That was the year of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding.
The night of the broadcast from Lillehammer, Norway, I raged as my mom attempted to put me to bed before the conclusion of the figure skating competition. Kerrigan still hadn’t skated, but more importantly, to me anyway, Oksana Baiul was poised to take home a gold medal, the first Ukrainian to have ever done so.
My mom gave in and let me go to the living room, where we watched the Olympic conclusion of the one of the most controversial seasons in figure skating.
To me it was magic. Baiul was only 16 years old, and here she was, Olympic champion. I’ve been in love with the competition of the Olympic Games ever since.
Throughout the years, the Olympics have always seemed to be shining moments. Despite everything that has gone on in our country, for those few weeks every two years, people put aside their differences and cheer on our athletes.
There are 243 athletes from the U.S. competing at this year’s Olympic Games; 135 are men, 108 are women, and seven are U.S. Soldiers.
2010 Olympic Gold Medalist Sgt. Justin Olsen from San Antonio, Texas, 2014 Olympic Bronze Medalist Cpt. Chris Fogt from Alpine, Utah, 2010 and 2014 Olympic team member Sgt. Nick Cunningham from Monterey, California and Sgt. First Class Nathan Weber will be representing the U.S. in four-man bobsledding.
Three of the four Soldier-athletes are part of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command’s World Class Athlete Program.
Sgt. Emily Sweeney from Suffield, Connecticut, and Sgt. Taylor Morris from South Jordan, Utah, will complete in singles luge, along with Sgt. Matthew Mortensen from Huntington Station, New York, who is competing in the doubles luge event.
“The WCAP program is composed of national and international caliber Soldiers who have been recognized in their sport, and who maximize and embody high performance agility, mental preparedness and physical strength. These Soldier-Olympians connect Americans with the Army and show that they are more than just war-fighters,” writes Robert Dozier, IMCOM Public Affairs in an article on www.army.mil.
Soldiers competing in the Olympics isn’t a new thing. In 2016, 11 Soldier-athletes competed in Rio, Brazil, and three Soldiers were sent to the Games as coaches. One of the Soldier-athletes, Spc. Paul Chelimo, took home the silver medal in the 5,000m race.
The Opening Ceremonies for the games will air Friday evening. The luge events begin Saturday and run to Feb. 15.
The bobsled events begin Feb. 18 and conclude Feb. 24. All events will be broadcast through the National Broadcasting Company.
To follow the Soldier-athletes and keep up with their Olympic experiences, visit http://www.ArmyMWR.com/Olympic.