February 7

Maine rich in Winter Olympic tradition

Since 1948, the state has had at least one athlete competing on the Olympic snow and ice.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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John Bower of Lewiston, 1968 games in Grenoble, France

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Kirsten Clark of Raymond, Salt Lake City games in 2002

Additional Photos Below

Another difference from today? The money.

“There was no money back then,” said Bower, who retired from the sport after the 1968 games because he had no funding and could no longer depend on his parents and wife to pay his training expenses. “Guys today, they have sponsorships. They can make a good living.”

Being in the Olympics “gave me more confidence than I had previously,” said Lufkin, who’s now 66.

All four men remained involved in skiing throughout their lives in one way or another. Upham’s son, James, is now the head coach of the U.S. Paralympic team.

“It was certainly an exciting time,” said Upham. “It didn’t gain me anything financially, but it fulfilled a dream that I had.”

DAN SIMONEAU, 1980, 1984, 1988

Dan Simoneau, who was born in Farmington and graduated from Livermore Falls High, carried Maine’s Nordic torch in 1984 in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, and in 1988 in Calgary. He was also on the 1980 Olympic team in Lake Placid, but didn’t ski in any races – “I got to watch Eric Heiden and a pretty cool hockey game,” he said.

He was speaking, of course, of the “Miracle on Ice,” a 4-3 victory for a bunch of U.S. college hockey players over the Soviet Union juggernaut.

“I can’t watch that movie,” Simoneau said. “It makes me cry.’’

Of his Olympic experiences, he said, “The first time, I was just cool with making it. I was the young guy on the team and no guarantee I would race. The next two times, I was one of the guys and there was never a question of whether I was going or not.”

And, unlike in Lake Placid, where he took in other events, “I was there to compete.”

Simoneau, who’s now 55 and a cross country skiing coach in Bend, Ore., said his life didn’t change after the Olympics, just perhaps other people’s perception of him.

“To me, I’m still a guy named Dan from Livermore Falls High School,” he said. “But when you make an Olympic team, people treat you differently when they find out. I had a boss once who introduced me as, ‘This is our Olympic guy.’ It was at a ski place and he called me the Olympic guy.”

Simoneau was well aware of Maine’s rich nordic heritage as he was growing up.

“I tried to tap into that heritage,” he said. “A lot of who I am today was made possible by the opportunities that people gave me to ski.”

ERIC WEINRICH, 1988

Eric Weinrich wasn’t born in Maine, but his ties to the state run deep. He lived in Auburn, Poland, Rumford and, finally, Gardiner, attended North Yarmouth Academy and then became the first University of Maine hockey player to make the U.S. Olympic team, in 1988.

“It was a dream of mine to be on the Olympic team after that 1980 team,” he said. “And it was a thrill, though at the time I never grasped what being part of the Olympic team was about.

“It was about representing your country and being part of a group of guys trying to make another miracle. Maybe I took it a little for granted. It was the experience of a lifetime and an amazing athletic event,” he said. “I wish I could go back as a spectator.”

Weinrich went on to have a 17-year NHL career and finished his playing days as a player-assistant coach for the Portland Pirates. He is now a scout for the Buffalo Sabres and lives in Yarmouth with his family.

Weinrich said he was fortunate to play in an era when professional players were excluded from the Olympics – the United States didn’t use professional players until 1998. “I don’t know if I would have ever got the chance to go, with the pros,” he said.

(Continued on page 3)

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Additional Photos

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Seth Wescott, who grew up in Farmington, with his gold medal from Turin, Italy, in 2006.

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Eric Weinrich, right, who has deep ties to Maine, was the first University of Maine hockey player to make the U.S. Olympic team, in 1988.

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Farmington native Dan Simoneau, shown with President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter, carried Maine’s Nordic torch in 1984 in Sarajevo and in 1988 in Calgary.

Photo courtesy of Dan Simoneau



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