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 2)

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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

He said the Olympics taught him that sports can transcend nationalism.

“Being patriotic is one thing,” he said, “but when you’re around these amazing athletes, you almost root for anyone when you’re there.”

THE PARISIEN SIBLINGS, 1992, 1994, 1998

To call the Parisiens the first family of Maine Alpine skiing would not be an overstatement.

Julie competed in three Olympics, finishing a heartbreaking fourth in the slalom in 1992. Her brother Rob joined her in Albertville, France, in 1992, and her sister Anna joined her in Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994.

“We were just very talented naturally, and progressed through the ranks,” said Julie Nuce, who’s now a nurse for MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta. “It was what we did, what we put into skiing.”

She said she never felt the pressure of having to represent her state, though she knew everyone was counting on her.

“There’s so much pressure involved anyway, I just tried to keep myself focused on what I had to do,” she said. “When I was in Lillehammer, I would get huge packages of letters every day delivered to my room from people in Maine. When you realize that people care about you, it’s not overwhelming but heartwarming.”

In addition to her fourth-place finish in the slalom in Albertville (by five hundredths of a second), she finished fifth in the giant slalom.

“It was horrible,” said Nuce, who had the fastest time after the first of two runs in the slalom. “I skied well and I got beaten. It was the ultimate lesson. You can do your best and you can still get beaten.”

Four days after those Olympics ended, she won a World Cup race.

Did the Olympics change her life?

“It would have changed my life if I won a medal,” she said. “I lead a totally normal life. I work in a hospital, I have four kids (ages 6-12). I struggle day to day with my diet and my weight.”

Nuce, now 42, retired from skiing in 1998 and went back to school to get her nursing degree, graduating from the University of Southern Maine in 2003.

She still pays attention to what goes on in Alpine skiing. She doesn’t have a television, but often watches the races streamed live on her computer.

“It’s tough to watch it sometimes,” she said. “I know all those hills, I know the courses. Sometimes I say, ‘I can still totally do that.’ ”

KIRSTEN CLARK, 1998, 2002, 2006

While she was growing up in Raymond and attending Carrabassett Valley Academy, Kirsten Clark saw firsthand how Maine embraces its athletes. Her first sponsor was a local bank. Others soon joined.

“It’s a small community,” she said. “You feel a lot of support. A lot of people care for you. They’re excited when you do well, sad when you don’t do well, sadder when you get hurt.”

She competed in three Olympics, in Nagano, Japan, in 1998, Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin, Italy, in 2006. Her events – downhill, giant slalom, Super G and combined – kept her father on edge. “It was frightening at times,” said George Clark, who still lives in Raymond. “A lot of bad things can happen if you don’t stay in control.”

Kirsten Clark-Richenbach, 37, now lives with her husband and three children in Squaw Valley, Calif.

She skis with her children and will encourage them to “follow their own footsteps and whatever dreams and aspirations they want.”

She looks back fondly on her career, even if it didn’t include an Olympic medal.

“As athletes, you don’t want to put all your eggs into the Olympics,” she said. “You can still have a wonderful year without winning an Olympic medal. I say that because I didn’t win any medals and still think I had a great career.”

And she tried to remain true to herself and her friends.

“I never felt anyone looked at me differently because I was in the Olympics,” she said. “And I’m glad that they didn’t because that would have meant I had changed.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

 

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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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