If you’re looking for Colorado connections in these South Korea Olympics, start here. A look at four of the most fascinating stories from our state in these Games:
Mike Testwuide, hockey
Colorado College hockey fans once called a 6-foot-3 forward Mike Testwuide.
Fans in South Korea call the same player, Kang Tae-san, or “strong big mountain.”
In a strange twist, Testwuide will compete for South Korea. He grew up in Vail. He played four seasons for the Tigers.
But, yes, he will be competing for the host country.
Late in the summer of 2013, Testwuide departed his faltering pro career in North America and purchased a ticket to South Korea, where he would play for Anyang, a city on the edge of Seoul’s massive urban sprawl.
Against all odds, he found a hockey home.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” Testwuide told The Independent of London. “I just wanted to revive my career and my love for the game. But I loved it right away, the people were so nice to me and I just fitted right in. It was a little bit of culture shock at the beginning but it’s a great city, a great place to live.”
Testwuide, after his application was fast-tracked, quickly became a Korean citizen, although he’s been able to retain his U.S. citizenship, too. He might soon be playing for the Koreans, his adopted home, against the his fellow Americans.
Katie Uhlaender: Skeleton
As a child in Breckenridge, Katie Uhlaender grew up under the direction of her father Ted, who preached the importance of toughness, self-reliance and never-ending improvement.
Ted demanded much of Katie, who still lives in Breckenridge.
“I don’t remember him ever complimenting me,” Uhlaender told me in 2013. “Or him ever putting me down. He always told me how to get better. He never gave me anything. He made me work for it.”
Ted, an outfielder for the Twins, Indians and Reds, played in the 1965 and 1972 World Series. He was a tough guy intent on raising a tough daughter. Ted died in 2009.
It’s easy to see Ted’s influence when Katie rides on her sled in skeleton competition. She savors her face-first rides on an ice missile that travels 75 miles per hour.
Skeleton was invented by English tourists in Switzerland in the 1880s. It’s a simple yet ruthlessly difficult endeavor. A competitor hops on a sled and speeds down the same courses used by bobsled racers.
Mikaela Shiffrin: Skiing
Bill Russell won two NCAA titles with the University of San Francisco and 11 NBA titles (in 13 seasons) with the Boston Celtics. His secret? He watched a private highlight reel in his mind before games. In these videos, a tall center named Bill always led his team to victory.
Mikaela Shiffrin, who lives in the Vail Valley, follows a similar approach to ski dominance. She watches, over and over, as she races to impressive victory. These viewings are intensely private. They take place in her mind.
In her mind, Shiffrin runs through all the possibilities, good and bad. She sees fantastic runs to the finish line. And she watches, in her mind, horrendous crashes and the mistakes that caused the crash.
“I’ve envisioned myself crashing because I know what mistake I made in my head to cause that crash,” she said at Sochi in 2014. “And I know I’m not going to do that. It takes a lot of courage to see yourself at every position and then brush it aside on race day.”
On the day Shiffrin arrived in Sochi, she was asked about the course. She liked what she saw, but found no surprises as she examined the run.
“I’ve been here before in my head,” she said.
Lindsey Vonn: Skiing
Lindsey Vonn is a native of Minnesota, but she’s based her training and her life in Vail since she was a teen-ager. She’s now 33, ancient by the demanding standards of ski racing.
She’s in the final stretch of a highly successful, highly visible and highly painful career. She’s posed for Sports Illustrated. She’s dated Tiger Woods. She’s claimed an astounding 80 World Cup victories, including one this month.
She’s shown herself as one of the toughest athletes to compete in any sport. She’s endured nine major injuries in her career and five major surgeries since 2006. Her right knee is a mess and has hobbled her for most of this decade.
She remains, despite everything, blindingly fast.