Tahoe olympic atheletes past and present plus a few big names
by Scott Sady
The Tahoe area has always been a breeding ground for winter Olympic athletes and this year at Sochi is no exception. We already have a South Lake Tahoe lady, Jamie Anderson with a gold and Squaw Valley’s Julia Mancuso steps it up for a bronze medal in her third straight Olympics as well as Squaw Valley’s Travis Ganong getting a career best fifth-place finish in the Sochi downhill. In honor of the great place we live in and the athletes that this place seems to breed, I have put together a few photos from previous Olympics that I shot as part of USA Today’s Alpine event photo staff. The alpine events are usually fairly far away from the main Olympic hub. During the Torino olympics in Italy, I was based in Sestriere, a small mountain town about 60 miles and several hours from Torino. I only saw the main city while coming and going. Sochi appears to be similar, with the mountain venues located up in the Caucus range, well away from Sochi proper, which is a tropical resort town.
I shot the Salt Lake Olympics in 2002 and the Torino Olympics in 2006 and I can tell you that digital camera technology has come a long, LONG way! My first Olympics were on the amazing 6-megapixle, horrible in low light Nikon D2h. Boy how spoiled we are now getting 10 frames per second at 20+ megapixles with great images at iso 8000. During the women’s downhill in Salt Lake, I positioned myself under the main jump to get a great air shot of the ladies flying by. It was a blind approach, meaning you couldn’t see uphill, and my camera fired about 3 frames per second. So I actually had to listen for the sound of their turn building up and the edge releasing to know they were about to fly overhead, then push the shutter once and pray.
Bodie Miller on his way to a silver Medal at the Salt Lake Olympics
Truckee’s Shannon Bahrke comes from behind to take a silver medal in the women’s freestyle Moguls event. Back then it was illegal to get inverted on their jumps, and they didn’t have to wear helmets.
Olympics aren’t all fun and games. Photographers have to be in position hours before a race starts and if there is a course hold, like there was on the women’s downhill in Salt Lake, you are forced to stay on the course until they decide to either run the race or cancel it. In this case, nearly 4 hours of snowfall. I finally fell asleep waiting.
Bodie Miller on the downhill track in Sestriere during the 2006 winter Olympics. Bodie was in his wild phase during this Olympics and did a lot of partying, but didn’t claim any medals. However, he came back the next season to take the world cup overall title, a feat way more challenging than any Olympics win, but mostly unknown to American audiences.
Truckee’s Daron Rahlves on the downhill run at the 2006 Olympics. Rahlves is not competing in the current olympics but keeps the competitive spirit alive as the founder of the wildly popular Banzai Tour.
Squaw Valley’s Marco Sullivan on his downhill run at the 2006 olympics.
The lower portion of the ice-injected slalom event at Sestriere Italy.
Ted Ligety bursts on the scene winning a gold medal in the combined event at the 2006 winter olympics. Now we know him as Mr. GS.
Bodie still half asleep during course inspection in Italy.
Bodie crashes through a gate and miraculously stays upright after making a 40+ MPH turn on one leg, but unfortunately he was already off the course and disqualified from the race.
Bodie Miller on the downhill course in Italy at the 2006 olympics.
Julia Mancuso on her Giant Slalom run at the 2006 Olympics in Italy.
Julia Mancuso on her surprise gold-medal run during the combined event at the 2006 winter Olympics. The combined is one run of downhill or super-G, both very fast speed events, and one run of slalom, pictured here. Julia is quite good in speed events, but not so much in slalom, which is why we were all pretty surprised when she laid down a blistering slalom run to capture the gold. Note the trademark tiara, and not-so-trademark lack of a helmet. Can you imagine racing or doing freestyle without a helmet these days?
Lindsey Vonn, (then Lindsey Kildow) in pain at the finish line after finishing the downhill off the podium. Lindsey had a scary crash on a compression during training the previous day and managed to finish her olympic races on mostly grit and painkillers. She has since gone on to be the most dominant American ski racer of all-time. Unfortunately, she took out her ACL last year, and again earlier this year trying to come back for Sochi, so we will see her as an analyst this year, not on the slopes.
Lindsey Vonn (then Kildow) during the slalom portion of the combined. Lindsey skied in pain the whole Torino Olympics, but went on to become the most formidable and decorated American skier ever.
- Stacy Cook of Mammoth Mountain at the finish line after her downhill run in the 2006 winter Olympics in Italy. I know Mammoth isn’t really local, but close enough.
Truckee’s Daron Rahlves last Olympic attempt was in the skiercross at the Vancouver Olympics. Here he was training for it at Sugarbowl ski resort.
South Lake Tahoe’s Travis Cabral competes in the moguls event at the Torino Olympics in 2006. Nikon’s digital low light performance at the time really sucked compared to modern cameras.
OK, I’m a sloppy record keeper. I shot the world cup freestyle competition at Heavenly Valley last year. Most of these guys and girls will be at the olympics, but after doing the assignment, I lost the start sheet, so I don’t know who most of these guys are anymore. But I love the weirdness of this picture. We don’t have any locals as far as I know in the aerials events, but local ski manufacturer Moment Skis had a couple of their aerial athletes podium in Vancouver, so there is a sort-of local connection.
Heavenly Valley skier Sho Kashima competes in the world cup moguls competition last year at Heavenly Valley. Look for Sho in Sochi!
Sochi Olympic snowboarder Chas Guldemond lived in Reno. I photographed him earlier this year in a park in Northwest Reno for one of his sponsors Bear Naked