Byline: Shaun Sutner
COLUMN: SNOW SPORTS
One Massachusetts-bred Olympian will be watching with great interest as the Winter Olympics kick off tomorrow in British Columbia.
Pam Fletcher, a former downhill star of the U.S. ski team, competed in the last Winter Olympics to be held in Canada, the Calgary Games in 1988.
After that, Fletcher, now marketing vice president at her father's ski area in Westford, Nashoba Valley, covered two Winter Olympics as a TV reporter and worked for the Olympic Committee at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.
Fletcher, 48, is looking for big things at the upcoming Vancouver Games from Team USA's great winter hope, Lindsey Vonn, the best American woman skier of all time, as well as from Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., the all-time U.S. male great.
Fletcher noted that Vonn, who grew up skiing at tiny 300-vertical-foot Buck Hill outside Minneapolis before moving to Vail, Colo., at age 12, proves that Olympians can come from anywhere.
Nashoba Valley, with only 240 vertical feet but plenty of heart, is a similar place. Fletcher skied there until she was 12, when she started training at Pat's Peak in Henniker, N.H. Later, she spent two years at the Stratton Mountain School in Vermont before joining the U.S. ski team.
"A lot of people don't realize that this great ski champion (Vonn) grew up skiing at a hill not much bigger than Nashoba," Fletcher said. "It just takes a little bit of desire, and it gives you the ability to get a lot of runs in."
Vonn, the reigning World Cup champion on the women's tour, shocked Olympics watchers yesterday with the surprise revelation that she has a fairly serious shin injury that could keep her out of some or all of the five events she had planned to compete in.
This column still expects Vonn to bring home multiple pieces of hardware.
As for the free-spirited Miller, with whom Fletcher is friendly, she said the 2005 and 2008 World Cup champion could peak at the Games after a disappointing couple of seasons.
"He's known as a big-event skier,'" she said. "His skiing is there. He seems pretty motivated. People need to know one thing about Bode. It's all about the skiing for him."
For Fletcher, having the Games on this continent is akin to a home-court advantage.
"Having the Olympic Games in North America is a special experience in itself," she said. "The athletes' family and friends will be able to travel there pretty easily. It's a ticket people can get."
Many from region
Miller is the...