LAKE PLACID - Athletes helping athletes, and keeping a tradition alive.
On Thursday at the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2010 Vancouver Olympians Haley Johnson and Andrew Weibrecht helped kick off an on-line auction to benefit the upcoming Empire State Winter Games that will be held in Lake Placid and the surrounding communities.
With funding for the entire Empire State Games program slashed from the state budget, area communities have banded together to keep the winter version of the event going in the Adirondacks, and six Olympians, all from the area, have donated items to be auctioned off. The auction began Thursday and will run through the final day of the competition next Sunday (Feb. 26).
From the left, Kris Cheney Seymour, Jeff Byrne, Haley Johnson and Andrew Weibrecht speak during Thursday’s press conference to announce the start of an auction benefitting the Empire State Winter Games to be held in the Lake Placid area Feb. 25-27. The displays in front of and behind the speakers are among the items included in the auction.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
At the press conference kicking off the auction, Johnson and Weibrecht spoke about their experiences with the Empire State Winter Games when they were young aspiring athletes in their respective sports of biathlon and alpine skiing.
"I'm super psyched that it's coming back, that it's staying and that the communities have all come together to be able to form a coalition to keep the Empire State Games going," Johnson said. "When I was growing up, when I was doing biathlon and did Empire State Games it was one more race, and I feel like for me as a developing athlete, one more race, one more experience was very important."
"The Empire State Games is kind of one of those building block events. It's a really important event to have for athletes who are trying to make the steps to the next level," said Weibrecht, who skied to a super-G bronze medal a year ago during the Vancouver Olympics. "For me, it was an incredible experience. I've always enjoyed racing at Whiteface. It's something you don't get anywhere else in New York. The Whiteface venues - they're real Olympic-type hills and courses that give opportunities for kids to ski, and basically give it a shot on the toughest stuff that you'll find anywhere in the country. I think that makes for a pretty cool event."
Joining Weibrecht and Johnson, biathletes Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke, nordic combined Olympic gold medalist Billy Demong and bobsledder John Napier have all donated items for the auction.
"It's an exciting way to involve the athletes and provide them a way to give something back," said Olympic Regional Development Authority vice president Jeff Byrne, adding that "100 percent of the money will go directly to the Empire State Games."
Kris Cheney Seymour, who was a nordic coach of many of the area's Olympians when they were young, also spoke about the importance of the Empire State Games.
"Something like the Empire State Games is very important as a stepping stone for many athletes within our state," he said. "It's their first big event, and for many it's their only big event. There's an awful lot of fun and excitement built into it. It goes on to lift many of these athletes to the next level.
"Our community, the Adirondacks and this region that has taken the mantle of the Empire State Games and has kept it going, really speaks to how our region understands and believes in the power of winter sports, the aspirations of children and the hopes to inspire athletes."
More than 20 items are up for bid during the eBay auction. Most are clothing worn by the Olympians, including competition suits, warmups, jackets and hats. Demong even donated a pair of his World Cup Atomic skis, along with other clothing items.
"What's neat about this auction is that it gives us a chance to give back," Johnson said. "It's generated by athletes who are for athletes. It's a neat thing."
A link to the eBay auction site can be reached by visiting empirestatewintergames.com.