I wrote a column today about Lauren Cholewinski, a speedskater who grew up in Rock Hill, S.C., and now will compete for the U.S. Olympic team in Vancouver.
Lauren's story is an oddity, for sure. Of the 216 U.S. athletes in these Winter Olympics, she's the only one from South Carolina. The only one from North Carolina is another speedskater -- Heather Richardson of High Point, who I also featured today.
So that's less than one percent of the U.S. team hailing from the Carolinas overall. That's not that unusual, although occasionally we produce a bobsled pusher (they are frequently former football players). We don't get a lot of snow and ice around here, so it's understandable. But speedskating can be practiced in a roller rink on inline skates, which is where both Cholewinski and Richardson got their starts.
I've covered three Summer Olympics now for The Observer and one Winter Olympics (I am not going to Vancouver -- our newspaper is not sending anyone this time). I prefer Summer Olympics overall, as I like the mix of sports better and there are usually more folks from the Carolinas involved (particularly in swimming and track and field). But the Winter Olympics do have their own rewards -- they are more manageable because there are far fewer events and they are often more picturesque.
It would be stunning if either Cholewinski and Richardson won a medal in Vancouver. They are far more likely to contend at the next Winter Olympics, in 2014 in Russia. But I'm glad they made the team. I talked to both of them and they sound genuine. They know they'll never make a living at speedskating -- Richardson wants to be a dental hygienist and Cholewinski may end up as a pilot -- but they are living an Olympic dream they've had for a long time right now.