Photo Courtesy: popscreen.com - Tristan Gale at the 2002 Olympics.
Ten years later, the images are still vivid of two young American athletes forever joined in triumph.
One, of Jimmy Shea screaming in celebration after winning the men’s skeleton gold medal, leaping to his feet and saluting his recently deceased grandfather as the crowd chanted “U-S-Shea! U-S-Shea!”
Then, about a half hour later — as snow softly fell on the same Park City run — it was Tristan Gale in her own moment of glory, high-fiving her hometown fans and grinning broadly, with her long, dyed, red-white-and-blue hair flowing as she held the American flag aloft.
Shea and Gale gave the United States a gold-medal sweep in skeleton, which was making its return to the Olympic Winter Games for the first time since 1948, and its debut as a women’s sport.
With the 10th anniversary of the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games this month, Shea and Gale recall the Games as an amazing, life-changing experience.
Though much has happened since for both, the Salt Lake Games are as tangible as the gold medals they can hold in their hands.
“It’s going to be sort of nice,” said Shea, who now lives in Park City, of the anniversary celebrations that begin Feb. 8 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. “You know, it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago. Seems like it was just yesterday.”
Shea: In the spotlight
Shea was one of the Games’ biggest stories even before winning his event.
He was a third-generation Olympian, following his grandfather, Jack, who won two speedskating gold medalsat the 1932 Lake Placid Games, and his father, Jim Sr., a cross-country skier at Innsbruck in 1964.
Just weeks before the Salt Lake Games, Jack — America’s oldest living Olympian at age 91 — was killed by a drunk driver. Then, during the Opening Ceremony, Jim and his father were the ones to hand off the torch to the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. The youngest Shea also was voted by his teammates to deliver the Athletes’ Oath.
So even before he made his first run on the Park City skeleton track, Shea was in the public eye, and his thoughts were never far from his grandfather. He tucked his grandfather’s funeral card under his helmet as he made his runs to the gold medal, then held it aloft after his final run. After winning, Shea told reporters, “My grandpa was with me the whole way.”
As he recalls the success and beauty of the 2002 Games, he can’t help but remember Jack Shea.
“I remember we talked before I went (to Salt Lake City) and I asked him what I should do, and he said, ‘You must have as much fun as possible and should be nice as you can to as many people that come and visit, because you’re representing the whole United States,” Shea said. “ ‘The world is watching. Be nice to people and have fun. Don’t let it slip