Pittsburgh native Tom Wallisch part of event to mark 100 days until Sochi Games
NEW YORK — Tuesday marked 100 days until the 2014 Winter Olympics open in Sochi, Russia, and Steve Holcomb still hasn't gotten over the thrill of winning a gold medal in Vancouver four years ago.
“It's something I'd been dreaming about since I was a little kid, and my dream came true,” said Holcomb, who drove the four-man bobsled to the United States' first gold in the event since 1948. “You just kind of go with it. It's an amazing feeling, and I really want to win another one.”
Holcomb joined more than 50 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes and 2014 hopefuls for an all-day event in Times Square on Tuesday to kick off the Road to Sochi Tour. The setup included an ice rink for hockey, speed skating, figure skating and curling demonstrations and a ski and snowboard ramp complete with man-made snow.
“I never thought I would be skiing in Times Square, and it's happening,” said freestyle skier Devin Logan, a Vermont native who hopes to compete in the halfpipe and slopestyle. “It's not natural snow; it's a little hard-packed up top and getting nice and soft at the bottom, so falling doesn't really hurt all that bad. It's a little different but nothing foreign. I mean, I'm from the East. I learned to ski on ice, so if you can ski on that you can basically ski on anything.”
Also present at Tuesday's event was Pittsburgh native Tom Wallisch, who hopes to represent the U.S. in slopestyle skiing in the first year for the event at the Olympics.
“It's surreal; this is definitely a real interesting thing to be in Times Square and have some rails set up and a huge crowd like this,” said Wallisch, a Chartiers Valley grad who lives in Utah. “It's definitely amazing. I certainly never would have seen this or expected this or predicted this when I was a kid, but now that we're here, it's awesome. It's really cool.”
Wallisch, 26, won his first world championship in 2013 and is a favorite to become a first-time Olympian.
Julie Chu has been to the Olympics three times as a member of the United States' women's hockey team and has earned two silver medals and one bronze. After a heartbreaking loss to archrival Canada in 2010, she and her teammates are hoping 2014 is their year for gold.
“We're pushing the envelope not only on the ice but off the ice, and now we're not done,” she said. “We're within 100 days and if anything, it's more focus, more intensity, and we're pushing ourselves even harder because we know time's limited to be the best we can as a team.”
Holcomb said the event in Times Square reinforced how close they are to Sochi.
“All the athletes are friends. We all know each other, and it's kind of like one big happy family, so it's kind of fun to see these guys again and hang out with them,” he said. “Everyone's getting ready to go, and it's exciting.”