When does an athlete decide to become a champion? Is there a moment in their childhood when they see themselves standing on the podium? Maybe the spark comes when someone older and wiser encourages them.
When World Cup and Olympic Champion Mikaela Shiffrin was a young girl, she received some advice from three-time Olympian Heidi Voelker. Heidi signed a poster for Mikaela and encouraged the young athlete by writing “Dream Big” and “Always be faster than the boys.”
After that, Mikaela wrote the initials #ABFTTB on her helmet to remind her of this advice and to push harder and faster (boys or not!) It obviously worked!
A few weeks ago, another little kid put on some boots and skis. My grandson, Holden, is 4-years-old and had skied just three times. When he was checking in to pick up his helmet, boots and skis at Deer Valley Resort, someone took notice.
Errol Harper, one of the ski rental technicians at Deer Valley Resort, didn’t just ask the normal questions about height, weight and skiing ability to this youngster. He knelt down to this 4-year-old’s level, looked him in the eye and said, “Did you watch the Olympics?”
The answer was yes.
Errol pulled a US Ski Team pin out of his pocket and showed it to Holden. “Do you see this pin here? This is the official pin for the US Ski Team and all the ski racers have a patch just like this on their jackets. Would you like this pin on your jacket?”
Holden’s eyes got big and he gave the older man a big smile. “YES! I am going skiing, too.”
Holden’s Mom picked him up and set him on the bench so Errol could place the pin in the best spot on Holden’s ski jacket. Beaming, Holden said, “Thank you!”
After that, the family made a beeline for the conveyor lift on the beginner run. Holden practiced making his skis into a pizza wedge and french fries for about an hour, and then his grandparents took him to the lodge for hot chocolate and cookies.
To the casual observer, this was a family playing in the snow, but to this little guy it might as well have been the Olympic trials. In his head, he is a champion!
Later that night we pulled up the recordings of the Olympics to watch all the US Ski team racers with their US Ski team logos on their sleeve. Holden proudly sat on the couch in his PJs, with his ski jacket on and new pin still attached.
Who would have thought a highlight of our family trip would be a moment of kindness while renting skis?