Olympic Movement unites and inspires across generations
by Devin Lowe & Steve Bitter
Speedskater Eric Heiden (left) and biathlete Joanne Reid (right) compete at the 1980 and 2018 Olympic Winter Games, respectively. Reid is Heiden's niece.
Olympic family: It’s an all-inclusive term that describes those who partake in the Olympic Movement. It spans Games, countries, generations and sports.
But several members of Team USA that competed at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games can attribute a more literal meaning to “Olympic family.” Nine American athletes that were in South Korea are children or grandchildren of Olympians.
There’s biathlete Joanne Reid, daughter of world champion speedskater and Olympic bronze medalist Beth Reid, who’s the sister of five-time speedskating gold medalist Eric Heiden. Freestyle skier Keaton McCargo’s grandfather, Jim Page, is a Nordic combined Olympian circa 1964.
Father-son duo Tim and Patrick Caldwell have experience at five Olympic Winter Games between them, with PyeongChang marking Patrick’s first. Chris Bourque, son of Team Canada’s Ray, and Ryan Donato, son of Team USA’s Ted, carried on their fathers’ legacies in the men’s Olympic hockey tournament in South Korea.
And to the delight of many fathers, mothers and grandparents, a child’s Olympic potential often shines through early and often.
“I’ve always known there was something really special about her from the get-go,” says Stan Dunklee, father of Susan Dunklee, a two-time Olympian in biathlon. “She took to skiing by traipsing around the backyard. When her older brother outgrew his skis, she grabbed them and she was out the door with them.”
Stan competed at the 1976 and 1980 Winter Games, and in 2016, he was inducted into the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum’s Hall of Fame. Almost 40 years after his last Olympic race, he got to watch Susan compete in PyeongChang – and even post a top-20 finish in the biathlon individual event.
The Dunklees are far from the only Vermont family with a multi-generational Olympic legacy. Perhaps the most famous of them all is the Cochran family, known to ski racing fans as the “Skiing Cochrans.”
Back in 1961, Mickey and Ginny Cochran crafted their own ski hill on the listing slopes of their property in rural Vermont. They taught their children – Bob, Barbara Ann, Marilyn and Lindy – how to ski, and all four of them went on to represent the United States at the Olympic Winter Games.
Barbara Ann won a gold medal in slalom at the 1972 Games in Sapporo, Japan, the first Winter Games in Asia. This year, she saw her son, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, make his Olympic debut at the second-ever Asian Winter Games.
“Before he left, I wrote him a card,” Barbara says. “In it, I told him that I believed there were lots of athletes that were capable of getting on the podium, even winning, including him. But I also wanted him to know that I was as proud of the effort I put in for the giant slalom, when I didn't win any medals, as I was for the slalom, when I did win.
“There is so much attention put on winning medals. I wanted him to know that for the athlete, it's not all about winning medals. For the athlete, the satisfaction comes from putting your best effort out there and being able to enjoy it while you're doing it. I wanted him to enjoy the moment, work hard, and have fun.”
For two-time Olympian Sophie Caldwell, who posted her best Olympic finish to date in the women’s cross-country relay in PyeongChang, the Olympic dream was always top of mind. Her grandfather, John Caldwell, was a Team USA Nordic combined athlete in the 1950s whose career culminated in a trip to the 1952 Games in Oslo, Norway.
“My grandfather loves to tell stories, so I always enjoy listening to his experience when he was ski racing,” Sophie says. “I've dreamed of being an Olympian since a young age. Skiing has been a huge part of my family, so naturally, I was surrounded by a lot of ski racers from a young age who I always really looked up to.”
The biggest difference between her Olympic experience and her grandfather’s? According to her, it’s the “wax game.”
“We travel with full waxing staffs, and when we're competing on the World Cup, we have a semi-truck that comes to each World Cup with us that is totally dedicated to waxing,” Sophie says. “I can't imagine racing on what they used for wax now.”
No matter their differences, what unites Olympians from the same families is their shared love of sport – and a desire to leave a lasting legacy of their own.
“I've always said that if I can accomplish half of what my parents have accomplished in their lives, I will be happy,” says Emily Dreissigacker, a biathlete whose parents were Olympic rowers in the 1970s. “Now I'm a little bit closer to doing that.”