With the COVID-19 pandemic still here, there was a time when we weren’t too sure we’d have this year’s Winter Olympics.
The 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo were pushed back a year, and the spread of the Omicron variant in late 2021 cast doubt upon whether the Beijing Games would occur.
Luckily for all winter sports enthusiasts, the Olympics have gone on without too much interruption from COVID. The Games wrap up Feb. 20, and a local crop of student-athletes has thoroughly enjoyed the action the past two weeks.
Of all the sports offered among high schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn, ice hockey is the only one featured during the Winter Games. A handful of players from Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, and Holy Cross H.S., Flushing, reflected upon what it means to wear your country’s jersey on the world stage.
“It’s great seeing everyone go out there and represent their country, especially in the sport of hockey,” said Xaverian senior defenseman Vito Demonte. “I grew up playing hockey, so it’s great to see the athletes go for gold. I’m really happy that we were able to have the Olympics this year with everything going on.”
Demonte, who lives in Dyker Heights, said he’s admired the leadership and respect exhibited by the Olympians. Respect is a value that’s relevant at all levels of sport, including our local Catholic hockey league.
In addition to hockey, Demonte has followed along with the skiing and snowboarding events. Though he himself is not a skier, he’s intrigued by these sports and would like to try them out some day, especially after seeing the lifelong dedication exhibited by the Olympic athletes.
“It’s amazing because you watch them playing these sports that they grew up playing as kids, and now they’re able to do it as adults for their country,” he said. “It’s very inspiring. It reminds you that whatever you love, just go out and do it.”
For Xaverian senior forward Brian Charles, he settled into a daily routine when it came to watching the Olympic action this month.
“I’ve been loving it,” the Rockaway Beach native said. “Every day I go home and turn on the Olympic channel and just watch everything. It’s great to see, especially after two years where we didn’t do anything.”
Charles has made it a point to pick up some tips from the Olympians as he watches the games. He followed along with both the men’s and women’s tournaments the past two weeks.
“Even just watching the games on TV, you can see the dedication and heart they put into the game that they love and grew up playing,” Charles said. “It really shows that if you put the time and effort in, you really can accomplish anything you set your mind to.”
Charles grew up skiing in upstate New York, so he has especially enjoyed watching the downhill alpine skiing events. When it comes to hockey, he said it’s unbelievable to watch athletes who have dedicated their lives to their sport.
“I’ve been playing hockey since I was 7 or 8, and I can’t even imagine when they started,” he said. “Time and dedication is really the key. They’ve put in endless hours each day on the ice and even in the classroom.”
Holy Cross senior forward Michael Guadagno said these Winter Games have brought back a sense of normalcy after a long time. He’s been excited to watch the hockey matchups to see if there are any big upsets, as well as learning from the Olympians.
“The main lesson I take away from anyone competing at that level is the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice that it takes to have the honor that comes with competing in the name of your country,” said Guadagno, a Jamaica, Queens native who also enjoyed the Olympic ski jumping events.
“To be able to do that on the world stage is a great opportunity for them and something everyone should aspire to do. It shows us that patience and dedication pay off in the end if you work hard enough to achieve your goals. We can all take lessons away from them.”
Regardless of whether these local student-athletes have their sights set on playing Olympic hockey someday, simply taking an interest in these Games has instilled in them the values of competitive sports that can translate to whatever lies ahead.
Mark your long-term calendars Olympic fans! The Paris Summer Games start on July 26, 2024.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.