The 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games begin on Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland. Among those attending include several local athletes.
Among those attending the games include Maude Crossland in monobobsled representing Columbia and Zoe Michaels competing in Alpine racing representing Australia. Five athletes from the area will represent the US at the games. Including Matt Greiner in luge, Bridger Stone in monobobsled, Paige Jones in Nordic Jumping, Sydney Palmer Leger in Cross Country Skiing and Lauren Macuga in alpine racing. Freeskier Zoe Atkin also qualified for the games but opted instead to compete in the halfpipe at the X Games. 17-year old Lauren Macuga was thrilled to learn she would be attending the youth Olympics.
“Before this year I never expected to like ever go,” Macuga said. “To get that call saying that I was going it was an amazing feeling. I was like, this is happening! This is crazy.”
Macuga has honed her skills with the help of local programs.
“Get Out & Play helped with that and then it just kind of led into NASTAR and I was finally pulled into the Park City program where I started with Devos with Dar,” Macuga continued. “Then I just kind of stuck with it. Really found my love for ski racing and I've been with Park City ever since.”
Macuga has had a successful start to the season including a podium result finishing 3rd at a speed Noram in Lake Louise, Canada. Macuga graduated from the Winter Sports School in November and plans to take classes at the U, along side her continued ski racing. Macuga is currently on the national alpine D team and hopes to work her way up the ranks.
Joining Macuga will be fellow Parkite Paige Jones. 17-year-old Jones was introduced to Nordic Jumping through an introductory program that started with five-meter jump and through years progressed all the way to Olympic sized 120-meter jumps.
“We kind of joke that we've all been brainwashed as children into thinking that it's not scary because most ski jumper start pretty young,” Jones explained. “But flying is just, it's great. Ski jumping when you watch it, it's very fast. By the time you reach the end of the takeoff we’re going about as fast as a car on a highway, but your mind slows everything down and everything just feels almost calm.”
In addition to her on and off the hill training, Jones has been working with a USA Nordic’s sports psychologist to strengthen her mind.
“A pre-performance routine that helps me compete at the same level that I’ve been training,” Jones said. “Because what I've struggled with in this past season is training really well and then coming to a competition and not competing as well as I was training. That's one of the things that I'm working on now just so that when I get to the youth Olympics, I will be able to compete at the same level that I've been training.”
Jones is also a recent high school graduate she finished her education at Park City High on December 20th. She also plans to take college classes in the spring, while continuing to ski jump.
Sydney Palmer-Leger also got an early start in her sport. Palmer Leger says she’s been cross country skiing since she could walk, and she’s had plenty of athletes to look up to.
“Living in Park City, it’s such a good community of skiers and so I have so many role models to look up to,” Palmer-Leger explained. “So, that's another factor that made me want to continue this through my whole life pretty much.”
Palmer-Leger says her favorite places to ski in the area include Round Valley and Soldier Hollow. She’s had a good start to the year finishing in the top three in three different events. Palmer-Leger also signed her letter of intent to race for the University of Utah starting next year. She gave this advice to listeners young and old.
“If you find something you love stick with it, and just have fun,” Palmer-Leger said.
The 2020 Youth Winter Olympics begin this Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland and continue through January 22nd.