Codie Bascue addresses the athletes at the opening ceremonies of the Empire State Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid Feb. 2. Bascue, who is from Whitehall, was a member of the US Olympic team in bobsleigh.
WILMINGTON/LAKE PLACID — Alpine skiers Sean Madden and Cecily Decker, both of Saranac Lake, became the first gold medalists of the 2012 Empire State Winter Games when the local racers won the boy’s and girl’s giant slalom events, respectively, Thursday, Feb. 2, at Whiteface Mountain.
Decker’s overwhelming triumph against a field of 48 athletes continued a torrid streak this winter. She recently captured the J3 Eastern Regional Championships, in slalom and giant slalom, on the same Draper’s Drop course. Decker preceded those wins with a silver medal in the Hovey Memorial giant slalom, also at Whiteface Mountain.
The winner posted two runs totaling one minute, 29.5 seconds. It was good enough for a 4.5 second victory over Tara Seigle of Cold Brook. The battle for second was exciting as the runner-up clocked 1:34.1. Third place went to Macy Fischer, also of Saranac Lake, who was 0.1 behind Seigle in 1:34.2.
Madden, similar to Decker, trains at Whiteface, and bested the field of 47 competitors to grab gold in 1:26.4 for the two heats. He was followed by a pair of Old Forge racers, Dan Heroux and West Tickner. The closely contested ski race saw Heroux record a time of 1:26.8, with Ticker checking in with 1:26.9.
The events were held in conjunction with the Lake Placid High School Winter Carnival.
The two slaloms will be held at Mt. Pisgah on Friday.
Also, with over 1,000 athletes registered for the event, the 2012 Empire State Winter Games officially began Thursday night in Lake Placid.
The 55 minute ceremony in the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena opened with the Houstonettes, a youthful ice skating group from the Hudson Mohawk Figure Skating Club in Troy, setting the stage for the parade of athletes in 16 sports.
The dais was replete with local, county, and statewide political figures, representative of the government entities that banded together to save the ESWG when they were struck from the state’s budget in November 2010.
Also on stage were two featured speakers, actor James Tolkan and Youth Olympic Games athlete and former ESWG bobsledder Codie Bascue, of Whitehall.
Tolkan, a long-time Lake Placid resident who played starring roles in the cinematic successes Top Gun and Back to the Future, used a familiar, yet comical line to inspire the athletes gathered in front of the stage.
“Whatever you do, don’t be a slacker,” he said as Mr. Strickland, a reference to his famous scene as a school principal with Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future.
Meanwhile, Bascue used a different approach with the youngsters before him. “At times in your sporting career, you will not always do as good as you had hoped,” he stated. “But one thing that I have learned through all of this is that you can’t lose hope and you can’t give up on yourself no matter how difficult it is.”
The ESWG officially began with the lighting of the cauldron. After being carried for two days through the Adirondack region, Elisa Lynch, an adaptive athlete in alpine skiing, brought the torch into the arena. Lynch handed the burning symbol to 17 year old luge racer, ESWG competitor and Youth Olympic Games participant Raychel Germaine.
The Roswell, Ga. resident climbed the steps and lit the cauldron as Randy Douglas, chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors chairman proclaimed, “Let the Games Begin.”
Follow the action as results will be posted at www.empirestatewintergames.com.