HONEY CREEK, Iowa — A former Olympic ski racer visited western Iowa over the weekend to inspire young skiers from the area to pursue their dreams.
Chad Fleischer, a native of Columbus, Neb., who skied in the 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics, spoke to more than 100 youths and parents at the Mount Crescent Ski Area.
The two-time Olympian held a question-and-answer session, signed posters and took to the slopes with the young skiers Friday. Dozens followed him in a pack while racing down the slalom track that evening.
In a more informal session Saturday, Fleischer skied with family members and chatted with a few interested parties during a busy day at the ski area owned and operated by his brother and sister-in-law, Korby and Samantha Fleischer.
Success stories similar to his have come from smaller hills than those in western Iowa, Chad Fleischer said. After all, Fleischer grew up in the Platte River Valley about 100 miles west of Mount Crescent where “there wasn’t a hill in sight.”
“It’s all about what’s in your heart and in your mind,” he said. “You don’t have to be a product of your environment.”
Last week, Indiana teen Nick Goepper won a bronze medal in the Olympic ski slopestyle event in which Americans swept the podium. Former Olympic gold medalist skier Lindsey Vonn grew up in Minnesota.
Fleischer said his desire to start skiing started when he saw American skier Bill Johnson capture the first Olympic gold medal in downhill skiing at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984.
“I turned to my parents and said, ‘That’s what I want do with my life. I want to be an Olympic ski racer,’ ” he said. “It’s amazing what the human mind and spirit can do when you set your goals.”
Just 10 years later, Fleischer was in rarefied air in the skiing world. He won two U.S. downhill championships and competed for the United States in Lillehammer, Norway (1994) and Nagano, Japan (1998) — experiences he said he will never forget.
An injury prevented him from competing in the 2002 Olympics on home soil in Salt Lake City.
Fleischer, who now lives and works in Steamboat Springs, Colo., would like to witness a skiing medal come a little closer to his boyhood home.
“I would love to one day see the first alpine Olympic medalist from Iowa/Nebraska,” he said.