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International Children’s Games a positive experience for all involved

January 28, 2016
Lake Placid News

To the editor:

As our private motor coach pulled out of the team hotel heading from Innsbruck to Zurich for our plane ride home, I took advantage of the microphone in the front of the bus by asking each member of the team to come up to the front of the bus and say a few words about their favorite experience of the week at the International Children's Games. Each coach or athlete was to introduce themselves in German before reciting their personal reflection. Upon conclusion of each talk, a certificate of participation was extended.

What transpired was what our trip abroad was all about. Not one of the athletes talked about their medal. Our team leader talked about watching an athlete from Iceland at the cross-country ski venue at Seefeld struggling to find his second ski lost in the new snow before the start of his race. A coach from another country noticed the commotion, and lent a spare pair from one of his racers.

One athlete shared her ability to overcome her nervousness in speaking Spanish with a boy from Barcelona, and then one day later learned that he would be her teammate in the speed skating relay. I finally understood why our coach was cheering for this Spanish boy during his individual race. Our speed skating coach reflected on the fact that her coach had competed at the Innsbruck Olympics in 1976, and what an honor it was for her to be apart the ICGs.

A parent of an athlete not on the bus reflected how his daughter waited at the finish for a new friend who was one of the last to finish. The new friend's face changed from despair to a healthy smile as they embraced after the finish line.

One boy from our team lost a sprint by about a ski length for a podium spot to a kid from Slovenia. Yet two days later, our athlete sat in awe when presented with a team autographed postcard from Slovenia.

Another spoke about laying off tempting Milka chocolate bars at the nearby store but then buying a boatload as soon as competition was concluded to take home to friends and family.

One shared daring to trade her coveted Big Truck Lake Placid hat for a Swiss Team hat, while another traded her Team LP jacket for one from Austria. Another said her Team LP jacket was not available for trade; it was her prized possession.

A coach noted that one of her athletes offered to race on two teams the final day to help even the playing field because one relay team only had three of the necessary four athletes. Another coach hoped to meet a former alpine ski racing star from Switzerland whose son was in the ICGs. He not only met him but got him to take our alpine team picture.

The team competitions on the final days were the biggest hit. Everyone was paired with boys and girls from different countries, and they put teams together with fastest girls with slowest boys and vice versa or even sometimes mixing teams with four medium-paced athletes. It made for spirited competition where every team had a chance to podium.

The kids spoke passionately how they came up with game plans with gestures and hand signals and bellows of encouragement with their foreign teammates, and how it got them into the next round with team work drafting each other. It was so cool seeing kids from Greece sharing winter podiums with kids from Italy, Germany, Russia and Canada.

Coaches all found the time to get some culture in with the kids by taking them to old Innsbruck to view the Golden Roof, the old cobblestone streets, the grand churches and the corner stone where one 12-year-old told his coach he was touching history dating back to the 15th century where Maximilian I ruled.

Our escort named Eva from Innsbruck volunteered at the press center at the Lake Placid High School in 1980 and was so proud to get Team LP and share her city's history.

And Bill Hovey took the team through Zurich, where he shared his knowledge as a teacher there for the past 15 years, also reflecting that his mom and dad came up with the Lake Placid logo displayed on our uniforms, and delighting that all six alpine racers had competed in the race that bears his dad's name.

As each story concluded on the bus, I was given a firm handshake and a sparkling look in the eyes as I passed on their certificate.

Many thanks to Innsbruck for hosting us, to Lake Placid and the Uihlein Foundation for our uniforms and transportation fees, and to the people behind the scenes like Heidi, Jeff, Annaliese, Mara, George, Natalie and Beatty. Job well done.

Art Lussi

Lake Placid



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