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Olympians have mixed reactions to 2018 games being in Pyeongchang (update)

July 6, 2011
By PETER CROWLEY - Managing Editor (pcrowley@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Local Olympians who have competed in Pyeongchang, South Korea had strong and different reactions to the announcement Wednesday that that city will host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

"That's awesome," ski jumper Peter Frenette of Saranac Lake said when told of the news. The 19-year-old, who hopes the South Korean Olympics will be his third, jumped there two years ago and had a good experience.

"They just did a really nice job," Frenette said. "I really liked the hills in Pyeongchang."

The International Olympic Committee chose Pyeongchang over Munich, Germany and Annecy, France. Frenette has also jumped in Garmisch, Germany, which would have been part of Munich's plan, but was pleased with Pyeongchang.

But not biathletes Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke, two-time Olympians and Lake Placid residents who have skied together since they were kids. Their memory of two weeks in Pyeongchang for the 2009 biathlon World Championships is still vivid.

"It was one of the least organized and worst run events I've ever been a part of," Bailey said. "Maybe they've made some progress ... but yeah, it was pretty bad."

Burke, a native of Paul Smiths, had his feelings about Pyeongchang confirmed at a week-long World Cup event.

"Both times were by far the worst international events I've every participated in," Burke said. "Not results-wise - I had good races" - the problems were with the facility and its management. They said poor preparations by staff left snow conditions bad, but worse is the course itself.

"The biathlon venue is literally on a golf course," Burke said. "It's not a normal ski course." He and other biathletes crashed on one downhill section, and he broke the stock of his rifle.

To top it off, they said, the firing range is extraordinarily windy. It's a good spot for electrical generation - the facility is surrounded by windmills - but not shooting, Burke said.

"I would really hope they don't try to have an Olympic event on that venue," Burke said. "They have a lot of time, so hopefully they can use that well."

"If the IOC is willing to stake their reputation on that and have the Olympics there, they must have a reason," Bailey said. "I don't know what that reason is.

"I think Munich would've done a better job. Germany is a biathlon country."

Bailey will be 36 and Burke 35 at the time of the 2018 games.

"That's really not an uncommon age for athletes to keep competing," Burke said, "but I haven't really thought it out that far." He's concentrating on the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia and doesn't want to make a career decision based on where the next Olympics will be.

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Pyeongchang neophytes

Freestyle ski aerialist Ashley Caldwell has never been to South Korea before and is optimistic. She was just 16 last year when she placed 10th in the Vancouver Winter Olympics and will be 24 in 2018.

"I'm really eager to visit and compete in Pyeongchang," Caldwell said in a prepared statement. "I'm looking forward to discovering a new part of the world and putting in the time both in Pyeongchang and the USSA's Center of Excellence to best prepare myself for 2018."

The news had a special ring to Kwang-Rei Baek, a 15-year-old luge prospect from Plattsburgh whose family is of South Korean origin. She's on USA Luge's Junior D Team and hopes to be an Olympian someday, perhaps in her ancestral nation.

"To be an Olympian anywhere would be amazing, but since I am Korean it would have more or a connection for me to compete in Pyeongchang," Baek said in a prepared statement. "While I am there I will hopefully have a chance to explore the culture and see how things are done differently.

"This is my first year with luge and I can only imagine it will be more like the 2011 National Championships, which I raced in earlier this year ... only bigger. When I think about the Olympics, which I do more than I like to admit, I think back to that race."

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Contact Peter Crowley at 518-891-2600 ext. 22 or pcrowley@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.

 
 

 

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