Bree in Bremerton Last Night

The Kitsap County Bremerton Athletic Roundtable honored Bree Schaaf, and organized a fundraiser, last night at the Kitsap Golf and Country Club.

I wasn’t there, so I don’t have many details. Maybe Chuck can fill us in later today.

In the meantime, here’s a bunch of Larry Steagall’s photos. (Click the photo for a link to a gallery.)

– Derek Sheppard

Event Tonight Honors Olympian Bree Schaaf

Social hour begins in just under an hour at 6 p.m. for an event tonight that will honor Bremerton native and fifth-place women’s bobsledder Bree Schaaf.

Tonight, the hometown gets its turn to honor the 29-year-old Olympic High grad. Schaaf will share her experiences at a dinner in her honor at the Kitsap Golf & Country Club.

Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent will be among the speakers at the Kitsap County Bremerton Athletic Roundtable-sponsored event. It’s open to the public and starts with a 6 p.m. social hour. The dinner program starts at 7 p.m. Cost is $20 ($15 for KCBAR members) — $5 for youth under 14 — and includes dinner.

Olympic hats and scarves and autographed photos will be available. Other items will also be raffled.

Proceeds will help defray training expenses for Schaaf, who hopes to represent the U.S. at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

– Derek Sheppard

Do You Know These Bremertonians?

On Feb. 20, a Facebook page led 10-15 Olympic Torchbearers to downtown Vancouver’s Olympic Cauldron. This was a busy place at all hours during the Olympics. Hundreds or thousands would pack around the cauldron for a glimpse at the flame. When torchbearers show up with the torch, it led many of those people to queue up, hoping for a photo.

Mike Williams, who’d run with the torch the weekend before in Chilliwack, BC, was there when a couple of people from Bremerton approached. They didn’t have a camera, but Mike did. So he took their photo and said he’d e-mail them.

“We all ended up hanging around for a while as many people wanted a picture
with the torch, it was a never ending line,” he wrote in an e-mail. “This couple did not have a camera but just wanted to hold the torch. I told them I had a camera and would email them the picture, when I got home I was very disappointed when I could not find the email address I have looked everywhere.”

Now, he’d like your help to this photo to them. Do you know them? You can e-mail Mike here.

I Stepped All Over The Olympics

The Olympics are over, but I’ll have a few more blog posts in the coming days to wrap up what’s been a long couple weeks, and a great blogging experience with all of our guest bloggers.

Now, a side note. Larry, Chuck and I rolled back into Bremerton today, and I had an important number to tally. Steps.

When press members check in they got a backpack full of look-at-me-and-like-my-brand marketing materials. Like the McDonald’s notebook, for instance. (Do you think a Big Mac will make me stronger than Bree?)

I don’t even remember the sponsor now, but we also got a pedometer. (One of those little devices you wear to monitor how many steps you take.)

We were there for eight days, and I forgot to wear it three days. One day was a bobsled day, which was well over a mile of walking, since the track itself is a mile long, and I walked the whole thing.

I already told you about the bus rides. Well, I also did a lot of walking. Almost always with a 30-pound pack filled with video and photo camera gear, batteries, a laptop, clothes, etc. To be fair, some of the walking was after-hours while I explored the city without all my gear.

Care to guess how far? (I’d post a picture, but now I can’t find the pedometer. It’s probably in Larry’s van. Darn.)

Well, when I got in the van to come home, it was just over 95,000 steps, and claimed a distance of 66.5 kilometers, which is just over 41 miles.

I bet if I had another Big Mac I could have walked another 10 miles.

– Derek Sheppard

Another Olympics Chapter Closed

When the IOC president declared the Vancouver Games officially over last night and the crowd began to boo, I sympathized. In fact, I’m watching a repeat of the closing ceremonies now, just because I don’t know what else to do — I know the Olympics are over, but for the past two weeks, they have been my life. And who am I? Not an athlete or an organizer, just a spectator who got to soak it all in for a few days, and who, like most, saw the majority of the events through the magic of television.

But even though I have no special connection to the Olympics (unless a report on the Games’ history in seventh grade counts), I clear my schedule every two years so that I can watch as much as possible — and I am never disappointed. There are incredible feats of athleticism (Shaun White dominating in the halfpipe), stories of sacrifice (the Chinese pairs skaters who finally captured their Olympic gold and can now move on to married life outside of the dorms), unthinkable tragedy (the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumartashvili, may he rest in peace), the perfect example of the saying “luck is when opportunity meets preparation” (see all of Apolo Ohno’s medals), and triumph over adversity (with Canada’s Joannie Rochette being the prime example of that). This year, Kitsap County even had a hometown hero to cheer for in Bree Schaaf, and you can’t beat that.

I got to see the world’s best male skiers fly down a mountain, up-and-coming women’s ice hockey players from countries where the sport is fledgling, and champions from all over the world accepting their medals. I also got to explore our neighbor to the north and interact with the hospitable locals and travelers from afar.

Here are a few things I learned from attending my first Games:

— There is a trade-off to the in-person experience — while you almost certainly won’t get to see as many events as you would if you were watching at home, the energy and the enthusiasm in the air are things that don’t transmit 100 percent over TV.

— Learning what you can about the sports and athletes before attending an event provides for the best experience. While some events have commentators for the crowds (like alpine skiing), others don’t, and it’s always more fun when you have some idea what’s going on. Plus, athletes’ backstories are — at least for me — one of the best parts of the Games.

— Stay as close as you can to the events. I know people who stayed in towns farther away and they did just fine, but I was thankful every night when I could easily walk back to the centrally located B&B I was staying at. Availability and price definitely dictate your accommodations, but the closer you are, the more time you’ll have to enjoy the experience. (Although $900 a night is just crazy.)

— Embrace the lines. The Games are crowded. On the weekends, extremely crowded. Fortunately, everyone at the Olympics seemed to be in a cheerful mood, and everyone was super friendly. Striking up a conversation with fellow line-standers proved to be informative and an entertaining way to pass the time.

— You can sleep when it’s over. Right now, I’m sneezing every two minutes and can’t taste food. Yes, I’m sick, and that’s not common for me. My guess is that the go-go-go pace of being at the Games and the lack of zzz’s did my body in, but I don’t regret it. I saw and did what I wanted to, even when it meant the alarm went off a mere hour and a half after my head hit the pillow, and I’ll remember those things I experienced far longer than I’d remember eight hours of sleep.

Thanks to the Sun for the opportunity to blog about my experience and to everyone who’s been reading the posts. I’ll be eagerly watching London in 2012 and Sochi in 2014 from home, but I’m hoping to make the 2016 trip to Rio de Janeiro. Until then!

– Haley Shapley

That’s All, Folks.

Remember that cauldron malfunction during the opening ceremonies? One of the legs didn’t raise up.

VANOC didn’t forget, that’s for sure. The closing ceremonies were off to a humorous (er, humourous) start when a mime popped on stage, tool belt around his hips, and plugged it back in before it raised into place.

It’s no Bob and Doug McKenzie, but not a bad comedic play from the Canadians.

It was great to (sort of) not work during the ceremony (says the guy typing away in the media center at 9:30 p.m.) and take it in as a spectator. If you’re interested enough to read this, you’ve probably already watched the on TV. If you’re wondering, yes, I kept my moose antlers.

Chuck, Larry and I depart for what is likely to be the mother of all border crossings tomorrow as everyone heads home.

It’s been a pleasure keeping this blog going, and I thank everyone for reading and commenting. Special kudos go out to all of our guest bloggers. You’ve all done amazing work!

– Derek Sheppard

Whistler Worth Waiting For

With fingers crossed that men’s giant slalom wouldn’t be postponed again, we woke up at 4 a.m. on Tuesday to make it to our bus that would take us on the 2.5-hour trek up to Whistler. I’d heard that the drive up is beautiful, but as you can imagine, it was too dark to confirm that, so I slept most of the trip. When I woke up and discovered we were in Whistler, I was excited to find the mountain town as picturesque as the many TV shots portray.

Approaching security, we were asked to take off our jackets, gloves, hats, scarves, and pretty much everything else keeping us warm. I actually thought they were joking at first, because we’d been to two other events (in the much-warmer Vancouver) and didn’t have to take off anything. Although they didn’t say why at the time, I later learned that the metal detectors weren’t working. I appreciate the need for security, but it was definitely a chilly few minutes sans jacket as they tore through everything in my purse!

We got into the venue earlier than most and secured standing spots in the second row — well, kind of. As more people showed up and tried to muscle their way in, I did my best to hold my ground but somehow ended up farther back. Still, we were close enough to see the media doing interviews with the athletes and had a great view of the hill (when the tallest woman I’ve ever seen in my life who slipped in front of me moved her head to one side, at least). I wasn’t sure how much of the course we’d be able to see, and the answer was about 20 seconds of it for the best skiers — it took around a minute for them to come into view.

While it wasn’t a great day for the Americans (Bode Miller missed a gate, and Ted Ligety had the best U.S. finish at ninth), we had fun cheering for all 103 skiers (I had no idea there were so many!). My favorite was probably Hubertus van Hohenlohe from Mexico, the only athlete representing Mexico in the Games and also the oldest of all the athletes at 51. He raced dead last but didn’t finish in last place (he was 86th), and he got lots of cheers from our section, which included two people from Mexico proudly waving their flag.

During intermission between the first and second runs, we decided to grab some lunch (mostly I just wanted to warm up, as my toes and fingers had lost all feeling.) We chose to walk down the mountain rather than wait for the chair lift, as the volunteers were encouraging. No matter how good of shape you’re in, the incline on that hill was killer, mandating that you walk in a crouched position nearly the entire time to keep traction and not blow out a knee. Lesson learned: On the way down, take the chair lift!

The final round went much faster, as there were only 30 skiers, but the crowd had grown considerably. Because they skied in reverse order this time (as opposed to the first round, when the best went first), it was an exciting, tightly matched race for the gold. In the end, Switzerland’s Carlo Janka won, prompting plenty of bell ringing and screams from the Swiss fans.

Although the travel to and from Whistler took about five hours and it was nerve-racking knowing that the race could be postponed at any time, as it already had been once, I’m so glad we made it up to the mountain for a skiing event and got to experience both Vancouver on ice and Whistler on snow.

– Haley Shapley

A sea of red jerseys

As I sit here watching the US-Canada gold medal hockey game (score 2-0 Canada), I have some time to post our final comments about the 2010 Olympic Games. The drive from Whistler on Friday was wet, really not good spectator weather. From what we heard, it wasn’t good men’s slalom weather either. We decided that in light of the weather, we didn’t want to walk around downtown in the crowds (US scores! now 2-1) and get wet before we went to see Short Track at Pacific Coliseum.

Katherine Reutter 1000m Silver Medalist

We found our private parking spot (Craigslist find, just about 4 blocks from the event) and then decided to go out to lunch. We drove west, the east on Hastings street (west had huge downtown backups) until we found a little Italian restaurant named Da Mario. We found this little gem that served excellent food with great prices and generous portions. We relaxed and spent time over a wonderful meal chatting about what we enjoyed the most about our trip to the Olympics.

Short track was exciting. Fun to watch on TV certainly. Nothing beats the cheering of the crowd, the excitement of passes and the jostling that you see. There were a lot of consolation events that were not on the schedule and we were treated to much more racing than was on the schedule. The major memory I will take away from this event was the Canadian support for their athletes. The passion they had for their skaters permeated the air. However, the cheering sections for the Koreans, Chinese and Americans tried as they might, but the sea of red jerseys just could not be out screamed.

Mens 500m Final

We cheered loudly for Apolo Anton Ohno when he raced. We saw his disqualification in the 500m finals but knew he had to try something as he trailed the entire race, having had a weak start. We watched Katherine Reutter fight for her Silver in the Women’s 1000m race, a race that had several lead changes. Perhaps best of all was the 5000m relay race with 20 skaters all moving at speed and trying to avoid getting in the way or hitting each other.

US Short Track 5000m team

Apolo earned his 8th and perhaps final Olympic medal that day. While we would have liked to see a higher finish for the team, the race saw the US trailing almost the entire time. The closure of the US into medals position in the last few laps was hard fought and showed their determination.

An added bonus was that we were able to see the medal ceremony for all 3 events. Nothing like hearing 8,000 people signing O Canada twice. The athletes skated their hearts out and they had medals to show for it. We loved seeing this event live as the speed, the gamesmanship and the strong support for each countries’ athletes.

The Olympics were indeed a once in a lifetime experience for our family. We hope you enjoyed reading about our activities. I need to concentrate on the hockey game…now tied at 2-2 in overtime.

Dave Neault

Post script-Canada, 3-2.

How Do You Become an Olympian?

Bremerton’s Bree Schaaf got involved after her brother, Tim Schaaf, made connections with the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. Tim was looking for an outlet after an injury ended his college football career and he was watching the 2002 Winter Olympics on television and thought the bobsled looked pretty cool. Pretty soon he was auditioning at a U.S. tryout camp, and it wasn’t long before he got his sister interested.

Eight years later, Bree’s an Olympian, a fifth-place finishers in the women’s bobsled at the Vancouver Olympics.

How do you become an Olympian? Read on. This story for the United States Olympic Committee lists the people you need to contact:

Where do you go?  Who do you call? Where do you sign up?

Vancouver, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada– An Olympic journey begins with a single step.  It’s that first one toward a goal that’s the most important.

For every one of the medals earned by U.S. Olympians in Vancouver and Whistler, there was that first step on the frozen ponds of Minnesota, the ice sheets in Wisconsin, the rinks of Boston and the hills and jumps in Steamboat Springs.

They all asked those first questions about how to be an Olympian to a parent or a coach. How do I take that first step?

And the answers came.

“So you want to be a bobsledder, Steve (Holcomb)?  Do you know where Lake Placid is located?

“Well, Apolo, You want to learn how to skate?  Vancouver is a pretty good place for a kid to learn.

“OK Lindsey (Vonn), you might want to ski on that little hill in Minnesota?

“Shaun (White), you ought to learn how to spin around a couple of times, add a few twists and give it a good name, like the double MacTwist.  Dude, that’d be Cool.”

After watching the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler and reading about the heroes on the ice and snow, millions of kids in living rooms and back yards around America are asking the same questions.

“How do I get involved? How can I get on the United States Olympic Team.”

If a soldier with six medals in the Army and a degenerative eye disease can pilot the USA  bobsled to a gold medal in the Olympics, so can you.

`If a young African American skater from Chicago can win two gold medals in speedskating, you can too.

If a California skateboarder can be the best there has ever been in snowboarding, you can too.

You can be an Olympian.  All it takes is a dream, some conviction…AND, most importantly, taking that first step.

And it doesn’t matter where you live.  There are hockey players from Simi Valley, Calif., speedskaters from Miami and Houston, bobsledders from Georgia. All found their way to Vancouver and the Olympic Games.

In this case, that first step is a phone call or getting online and checking out a website.

The U.S. Olympic Committee is made up of a variety of organizations, including Olympic sports federations, also known as National Governing Bodies.  There are eight of these for Olympic Winter Sports.

These federations would love to get those youngsters involved in their sports.  But, first you have to ask.

For all those kids interested in becoming the next Shani, Apolo, Shaun, Lindsey, Bode or Steve, take the first step.  Get on a website and find out how to get involved.  Make a phone call, go to the library.

One day you could be on that podium.  Or you could just have fun in your neighborhood.  Either way, you’ll be a winner.

For that first step, pick a sport.  Pick several sports and contact them.  Here’s a list to help you get started:

U.S. Biathlon Association

49 Pineland Drive, suite 301A

New Gloucester, ME  04260

207 688-6500 or 1-800-BIATHLO (242-8456)


U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation

1631 Mesa Ave. Copper building

Colorado Springs, CO  80906

719 634-5186

USA Curling

5525 Clem’s Way

Stevens Point, WI  55482

715 344-1199

U.S. Figure Skating Association

20 First St.

Colorado Springs, CO 80906-3697

719 635-5200

USA Hockey

1775 Bob Johnson Dr.

Colorado Springs, CO  80906

719 576-8724

U.S. Luge Association

57 Church St.

Lake Placid, NY 12946-1805

518 523-2071

U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA)

1 Victory Lane, P.O. Box 100

Park City, UT 84060

435 649-9090

U.S. Speedskating

Utah Olympic Oval

5662 South Cougar Lane

P.O. Box 18370

Kearns, UT 84118

801 417-5360

Olympic Medals, and a Pop Quiz

Q: How you you get a boat full of tourists to avoid noticing that the engine has stopped working and the boat is adrift?

A: Have an Olympic medalist on board.

Larry and I went down to Granville Island, which is south of downtown, to grab some atmosphere shots, and when we boarded the little ferry boat back to town, I spied a familiar face – Erin Pac, the US women’s bobsledder who won the bronze medal.

The ferries are run by a private company so we paid the $4. (Accredited folks get free bus and Sky Train rides.) Apparently there’s a friendly exemption for medalists. That’s fair, I’d say.

For the duration of the ride, including the 5 minutes or so the outboard stopped working, riders crowded around, congratulated her and peered at the medal.

I have to say some years, the medals look kind of funky. Seems like they nailed them this year. They’re gorgeous, and the native carvings are unique on each one.