Backyard Olympics: Live your Olympic dream |

Backyard Olympics: Live your Olympic dream

Teri Vance
Nevada Appeal File PhotoA man skis at Squaw Valley in this file photo. Nine athletes from Lake Tahoe and one from Reno begin their quest for gold when the Vancouver Winter Olympics get started today.

Growing up in rural Nevada, we didn’t get very good television reception.

Which was OK. With unlimited space to explore, along with horses, bikes and sisters, we didn’t have much use for TV (except for “The Dukes of Hazzard” … I had to check in with my husband, Luke Duke, every now and again).

But during the Olympics, we were glued to the tube. One of us would climb on the roof and twist the antenna until another of us sitting by the fireplace would yell up the chimney that the picture was clear.

We were mesmerized by the competition. The underdog who came back to take the gold. The athlete who trained tirelessly and was rewarded in front of the world. Kerri Strug when she landed the vault after injuring her ankle.

The games seemed to ignite a sense of wonder and that anything was possible.

And for those three weeks, it seemed as if that were true as we re-created the atmosphere of competition between the four of us


Of course, living more than an hour from town (if you can consider Elko a town), we had limited access to Olympic sports.

But that didn’t stop us. Fence railing easily transformed to balance beams. The irrigation pond doubled as an Olympic-sized pool. A piece of plywood tied to the back of a snowmobile was kind of like skiing.

Even with our badly improvised sports, we felt like we were accomplishing something.

It was during the 1996 Summer Olympics that I taught myself to dive. I was getting ready to leave the country for the first time, and I was scared. I figured if I conquered my fear of diving, I could conquer anything.

As my sisters practiced jumping into the air, touching their toes then piking to glide straight into the water, I stood for hours on the edge of a dock trying to get up the courage to fall headfirst.

I finally did it. Although I never got above a 3.0 from my sibling judges, it was a big step for me. Fourteen years later, I still consider it one of my milestones.

Our thirst for competition has faded over the years, but the Olympics have always stirred some primal instinct to achieve greatness.

So this year, I’m going to share with Nevada Appeal readers how they can go from spectator to participant in some of the most demanding sports.

Living in this area so close to some of the world’s best ski resorts makes it a perfect opportunity to become a part of the Winter Olympics.

In a series that begins today and continues Friday, Feb. 19 and 26, I will highlight nearby places you can learn the basics of each sport.

And, if not, you can always create your own version. I’ve heard a few sticks and a doll’s head can make a pretty good hockey game.