Empire State Winter Games set to kick off today

Lake Placid’s Ryan Grady carries the torch while being joined with Olympic ski jumper Nick Fairall at the Olympic Center during the opening ceremony for the Empire State Winter Games on Jan. 31, 2019. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — More than 2,000 athletes of all ages are expected to descend on the region this weekend to compete in more than 20 different sports at the Empire State Winter Games.

The ESWG, which is in its 44th year, is an Olympic-style, winter multi-sport event, spanning across multiple venues in the Tri-Lake region.

“Our goal is to make sure the athletes, the families, the spectators, and the officials that everybody enjoys themselves and gets to experience Lake Placid and what the Adirondacks had to offer,” ESWG Head of Communication and Media Jon Lundin said. “This could be the pinnacle of their athletic careers, or this could be something that is going to push them to greater heights.”

The games will kick off at 6:30 p.m. today with an opening ceremony at the Olympic Center’s 1980 Herb Brooks Arena, marking its return to the venue after being held on the frozen ice of Mirror Lake for the past two years.

“I think it’s more inducive with the weather that we’ve been experiencing over the past couple of weeks,” Lundin said. “We had moved it out of the Olympic Center due to schedule purposes the last two years and moved it on to Mirror Lake. We’re excited to have the opening ceremony back in the Olympic Center. Plus it’s taking some of the weather element out of the opening ceremony.”

The opening ceremony will have a theme called “Then and Now,” which aims to celebrate the 43-year history of ESWG and recognize the commitment and dedication of the participating athletes over the years. The ceremony will highlight new sports and athletes in a setting that includes throwback imagery, uniforms and video content of athlete check-in and in the athlete’s village.

Canandaigua figure skater and ESWG Athlete of the Year Emily Warren will be involved with the opening ceremony. Lundin said he didn’t want to give away what her actual role would be in the opening ceremony.

“Let’s just say she’ll be very much involved with the cauldron portion of the ceremony,” he said.

The five-day torch relay, which started on Sunday, Jan. 28 and covered 700 miles, had two starting points: Buffalo and Poughkeepsie. The relays will converge and head to Lake Placid for the final leg.

The venues include: the Olympic Center, Olympic Speedskating Oval and Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid; Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington; Paul Smith’s College VIC; Mount Pisgah Ski Center, Saranac Lake Civic Center and Dewey Mountain Recreation Center in Saranac Lake; and the Tupper Lake Civic Center and the James C. Frenette Sr. Recreational Trails in Tupper Lake.

The winter sports included in the games are: adaptive alpine, adaptive biathlon, adaptive bobsled, adaptive cross-country skiing, adaptive sled hockey, Alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled, cross-country skiing, figure skating, luge, skeleton, snowshoe, ski and snowboard cross, freestyle moguls, ski orienteering, hockey (10U boys, 12U and 14U girls), winter biking and speedskating (short-track and long-track).

However, both Nordic combined and ski jumping won’t be on the schedule for this year. Lundin said it will return in the future.

New to the games this year will be a winter triathlon, which combines a 5-kilometer run, a 10K winter bike and a 5K cross-country ski, held at the James C. Frenette Sr. Recreational Trails in Tupper Lake.

“It’s a sport that has been growing, especially in the northeast,” Lundin said. “Triathlons are very popular throughout the country and the world for that matter — the traditional triathlon. On the heels of that, you see the growth of the winter triathlon. So far, we’ve had a good turnout for that event and I think it will be a featured event each year for the Empire State Games.”

While most events will take place this weekend, the triathlon will be instead held on Feb. 17.

The ESWG schedule can be found online at empirestatewintergames.com.


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