Tom Kelly, VP of Communications at the US Ski and Snowboard Association, has been to more Winter Olympics than almost anyone. He helped open the SIA Snow Show on January 30 where he gave the crowd a taste of what the Olympics had in store. His Sendoff to Sochi, complete with uniform unveilings and incredible videos from each discipline, getting the crowd fired up for the Olympics while reminding us all of the passion our sport inspires. SIA was lucky to have a chance to sit down with Kelly and get his thoughts on the Games, the sport, and the industry.
This is your 8th Winter Olympics, and you are clearly just as passionate about it as ever. What has it been like the past few months leading up to the Olympics—seeing the athletes qualify, feeling the support Americans have for the team, and experiencing the excitement build across the country?
There is a lot of emotion in what these kids do. It’s unlike any other sport; this only comes around once every four years and if you look back at the culture of the Olympics, it goes back to 776 BC. There are very few things in our world today that have transcended time in that manner and still maintain the same integrity that they had thousands of years ago.
I think that’s part of the reason that skiing and snowboarding is really quite a close knit-family. You know we talk about it as an industry and a business, but we’re also a very close group with a lot history. Everyone involved in this sport feels a kinship to the Olympic Team and to those athletes, and we feel really blessed to have that support. For all of us who are directly involved and going over to Sochi with the team, there is a lot of passion and emotion, and there is an equal amount of passion and emotion for all of those who watch it on NBC here at home as well.
SIA and its members have a long history with USSA. What are your thoughts about that relationship and how it has evolved?
The relationship between SIA and USSA is pivotal to the success of our athletes. Historically, going back to the 60’s, Doc DesRoches (President of SIA from 1960-1981) was one of the most passionate supporters of the U.S. Ski Team. He was one of the pioneers of what is now the NY Ski and Snowboard Ball, our Gold Medal Gala. That’s an event that today raises a million dollars a year for our athletes and all of that goes back to the passion Doc showed for our organization. Today, David Ingemie carries on that tradition, and the member companies of SIA, the supplier companies of our teams. They are essential to the success our athletes are having. We could not do what we do and the athletes could not accomplish their goals if it weren’t for the support that we get from the industry, and from the companies that provide us with our uniforms, our outerwear, our skis and snowboards. So it is really essential, and it means a lot for the athletes to have everyone in the industry behind them.
How did it come about that three new sports were added this year?
The new sports were the result of an initiative by both the equipment and the resort industry to encourage the International Olympic Committee to bring some new events on line that were really relevant to kids. They said, this is what kids do on equipment today and at resorts today, so why not have it in the Olympics. The IOC got very active in this area and brought on a lot of new events, a lot more than we originally expected. We have a strong and deep team that’s very well prepared so of course we’re seeing some great excitement and hopefully some medals in these new events.
Do you think the addition of the new events, and the Olympic year in general, will give the industry a boost and help grow participation?
Ask any Olympian and they’ll tell you that their early inspiration came from watching other Olympians. Lindsey Vonn categorically got her big boost in the sport when at 9 years old she met Picabo Street, an Olympic Champion, and that gave her the motivation. I see the same thing happening with the new events right now. Kids all over the country, the 8, 9, 10-year olds, they’re going to be seeing Nick Geopper, Lyman Currier, Maddie Bowman, Devin Logan and 15-year old Maggie Voisin and they’re going to say, “Hey Mom and Dad, I want to do that too.” One of the cool things we have going in this Olympics is a partnership with NBC called NBC Gold Map. It’s a web presence at the NBC Olympic site that that provides simple one-click access for parents and kids who want to learn how they can get started in the sport, and how they can find a resort or a club they can get involved with. It makes it easy for kids who are inspired by the Olympics to go out and get involved.
Here at SIA we’re on the edge of our seats as the Olympics continue, and we wish Tom and everyone on the Olympic Teams continued success. As the Americans rack up the medal count, you can find loads of information, links to live feeds and athlete bios at Snowlink.com, and you can keep track of US athletes on the podium with our handy new Medal Widget. Be sure to check out the NBC Gold Map, which features the Bring A Friend Challenge and Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. And, as always, Go USA!!
Reach out with questions anytime about Snowlink.com—email Lindsey Auer at LAuer@snowsports.org. For more information about Learn To Ski and Snowboard Month or the Bring A Friend Challenge, contact Mary Jo Tarallo at firstname.lastname@example.org.