“I'm so thankful for the people in town who founded the Youth Sports Alliance after the 2002 games,” said Fisher. “It was a community effort to get all of the youth from Summit and Wasatch counties out using these amazing Olympic venues and getting as many kids out and active in our community playground. The legacy absolutely still lives on.”
And it has worked. Some, like nordic combined skier Jared Shumate and cross country skier Rosie Brennan grew up in [service name="park-city-mountain"]Park City Mountain[/service]. Others, like freeskiers Izzy and Zoe Atkin, moved to Park City because of the great sport opportunities. Some, like Olympic gold medalist aerials skiers Ashley Caldwell, Chris Lillis and Justin Schonenfeld, were brought together by the world-acclaimed freestyle training facility at the [service name="utah-olympic-park"]Utah Olympic Park[/service] that opened in 1993.
But while Utah takes great pride in its Olympians in Beijing, Fisher is quick to point out the broader value of sport.
These athletes are phenomenal PR stories for us, she said. “But for me, it's really about the 1,500 kids that we get out and get active every year. It's really important for every kid. A lot of their parents work in the service industry and they don't have the opportunity to use these amazing Olympic venues, to get out, to learn how to ski, learn how to snowboard. The most important legacy of our program is that these kids can grow up and feel part of the community because they participate in things that are so important to the community.”
Now a nordic combined Olympian, Jared Shumate grew up in Park City and tried a myriad sports through the Youth Sports Alliance’s Get Out and Play program.
“Growing up in Park City, every day on my way to school, just looking out the windows, I could see the Utah Olympic Park not knowing when I was three years old that I'd be going to the Olympics for that sport. So who knows, maybe it's been in me since I was a little kid.”
Rosie Brennan did just about every outdoor winter sport before her mom made her choose. They had had a great time watching cross country skiing during the Olympics at Soldier Hollow during the 2002 Olympics, so that’s what she chose. Today, she’s one of the top-ranked skiers in the world and competing at her second Olympics.
“Sport has brought me, honestly, just about everything. I am so thankful for the opportunities that I've had. It's putting a challenge out there and working hard towards it. Oftentimes you come up short and have to learn how to take that shortcoming, process it, figure out what went well, what didn't go well and then work up the courage to take what you learned and apply it again.”
Halfpipe skier Brendan Newby was born in Ireland but grew up in Orem. When he was four, his father took him to Brighton. Young Bubba, as he is known to friends today, was hooked. He made his first Olympic team for Ireland in 2018 and is back again, along with countryman and fellow Irish snowboarder Seamus O’Connor, another Utah transplant.
“Utah is probably one of the most fun places to grow up. I'm a mountain biker and dirt biker as well, and I can basically go 20 minutes in any direction and have insanely good stuff to ride. If you want to be a winter sport Olympian, Utah is kind of the place to do it for literally any sport because of the 2002 Games and because the [service name="utah-olympic-legacy-foundation"]Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation[/service] has kept up all of the facilities so well.”
Izzy and Zoe Atkin
The young Atkin sisters, Izzy and Zoe, were passionate about winter sport. So a family move to Park City when they were young gave a dream playground and a strong club program to build their skills. Skiing for their mother’s homeland of Great Britain, in 2018 Izzy won Olympic bronze in slopestyle skiing. This time, she’s bring along younger sister Zoe who competes in halfpipe skiing.
“It's just a really great place to be because everyone loves just to be outside and to do what they love to do like skiing and snowboarding, being outdoors. A lot of people have that athlete mindset. I went to the Winter Sports School - a whole school of winter sports athletes. It was great to be in that community. We all pushed each other. Everyone just kind of has that drive to be outside and have fun, but also to push themselves in sport.” - Zoe Atkin
“Yeah, (PyeongChang 2018) was incredible. It was the first experience I'd ever had like that - to have all those incredibly driven athletic people in one bubble and getting to know other people's stories, how they got to where they are today. That mindset in the village is super motivating. It was just an amazing experience for me to even go there.” - Izzy Atkin
Still a teen, Nick Page grew up in Park City skiing moguls with Wasatch Freestyle. In Beijing, he led Team USA finishing fifth as his family watched from home. He and friends like Olympic teammate Cole McDonald are the future of freestyle skiing - just fun-loving young athletes who love ripping around the mountain.
“I think a big part of (the Utah sport culture) comes from the Salt Lake Olympics, and all the infrastructure that's been left in place for us to keep using. At [service name="deer-valley"]Deer Valley Resort[/service], we ski on Champion, the Olympic run. We train at the Utah Olympic Park. I know the Oval down in Salt Lake gets so much action. We're able to repurpose all that from 2002 and put it all back into the community to build these current level athletes, which is really special. I don't think that's something that always happens once a city has an Olympics.”
Check out this episode of Last Chair to hear from Utah’s own Team USA athletes, and learn more about how sport is positively impacting kids in the state.
Park City Nation
As the home of the most concentrated collection of Olympic venues in the state, the Park City Nation boasts 54 Olympians in Beijing from a half-dozen nations. Since the 2002 Olympics and Paralympics, the Youth Sports Alliance has introduced thousands of boys and girls to sport through its Get Out and Play and other programs. While every four years it gives locals a source of Olympic pride, what’s even more beneficial is the positive impact that sport has in providing life skills to kids of all ages and backgrounds.
Youth Sports Alliance
Formed following the 2002 Olympic Games, the Youth Sports Alliance introduces kids to sports and inspires them to keep moving throughout their lives. It provides a wide range of after-school programming to keep kids active through Get Out and Play and other programs, while also serving as a pipeline to winter sport clubs and competitions. One of its most valuable assets is the Stein Eriksen YSA Opportunity Endowment, a $2-million need-based scholarship fund for competitive athletes.