Local Olympic Athletes Continue to Make the Valley Proud!

The Vancouver Games are in full swing this week as curling fills daytime TV, Shaun White and Shani Davis defend their gold medals, figure skating draws millions of TV viewers each prime time, Gold medalist Hannah Kearney sets the stage in the moguls, and stars like Apolo Anton Ohno, Lindsey Jacobellis, Jeret Peterson, Kikkan Randall, Kelly Clark, Bode Miller, Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Vonn continue to display the Olympic spirit.

And in this valley, we have our very own Olympic heroes. Graham Wantanabe, Morgan Arritola, and Simi Hamilton continue to represent the Olympic spirit that is so alive in this country and this community.

Two-time Olympian Graham Wantanabe, who hails from Hailey, is one the brightest, friendliest faces of the games. Always with a kind smile and with anecdotes to make you laugh (telling reporters in Vancouver, "Try to imagine Pegasus mating with a unicorn. And the offspring . . . I’d somehow tame it and ride it into the clouds, the sunshine and rainbows. That’s how I feel."), Graham is a role model to snowboarders, athletes, and fans all over the world. During the Men’s BoarderCross comp on Tuesday, Graham made it out of the qualifying rounds as the fastest American, with the second fastest time overall. Unfortunately, a small bobble in the finals eliminated his chance in the medal round, while defending gold medalist, American Seth Wescott went on to win his second gold medal. These games may not have ended as Graham had hoped, the valley and local community continues to be incredibly proud of our Olympic Champion and can’t wait to see him back on the slopes of Bald Mountain sometime soon. Congrats, Graham!

Nordic skiers and SVSEF Olympic Development Team athletes, Morgan Arritola and Simi Hamilton made their Olympic debuts this week. Arritola, who only began skiing seven years ago, finished as the second fastest American female in the 10K sprint race. Her finish at the middle of the pack, in 34th place, serves as a successful beginning to what we can only hope is a long and successful Olympic career for Morgan. Simi Hamilton, too, had an incredibly successful beginning to his Olympic story. Simi made it past the qualification round in Wednesday’s Individual Sprint and finished as the fastest American man in 29th place.

Both Morgan and Simi are expected to race in the coming pursuits so don’t miss your chance to cheer on more local heroes! Morgan will compete again Friday in the 15K Pursuit, starting at 12 pm (Mountain Time Zone) and Simi will race in Saturday’s 30K Pursuit, beginning at 12:30 pm (Mountain Time Zone).

Olympic Hopeful and Local, Langely McNeal, and Five Things She Loves About Sun Valley

Part of a generation of kids born and raised in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area, Langely McNeal, has had skis on her feet since she could walk. For her, Sun Valley is home and Baldy holds a special place in her heart. And now, for the past few years she has been training to get closer and closer to every skier’s dream, the Olympics.

Langely is one of two American women in the hunt for the Vancouver Games in the new event, SkiCross. Much like a motocross race on skis, with all the bumping, pushing and crashing, SkiCross is fast, furious, and terrifying. But anyone who has seen Langely on the hill knows this ball of fire can definitely hang. Langely, who still calls Sun Valley home and trains on Baldy, is a member of the US Ski Team’s SkiCross team (part of the US Freestyle team) and a member of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s Olympic Development Team. As the top ranked US woman in SkiCross and with support from the SVSEF and the US Ski Team, Langely will be traveling to Europe to compete in several qualifying races in hopes of earning herself a spot in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Keep an eye out for our local girl and check out the five things she loves about Sun Valley below.

5 Things I Love about Sun Valley

1. The steep terrain on Baldy that feeds right into the non-existent lift lines.

2. The feel of carving a ski on the perfectly groomed runs, then having hot chocolate and whip cream at Warm Springs Lodge.

3. Being able to walk out my front door with a mountain bike, road bike, running shoes, whatever, and knowing I’ll be able to find some sweet trail in any direction.

4. The people, hands down. So many great personalities in our valley and amazing friends that you can’t find anywhere else.

5. The ridiculous amount of sunshine we see all year round… so spoiled!