Many people dream of competing on their sport's largest stage.
In baseball, it would be making it to the World Series, or to the Super Bowl in football. When it comes to professional skiing, the Mecca is the Winter Olympics.
After years of hard work, two Warsaw men will be in Vancouver this year. Even though they're not competing in the games, they will be right in the middle of the action.
The thrill of taking off down a hill with the wind in your face is in Randy Schmucker's blood.
“It’s something my brother taught me to do when I was young and it's something I excelled at at an early age and I’ve loved it my whole life,” says Schmucker.
So this winter there's no place he'd rather be than in Vancouver, but Schmucker will have a tough job.
“I’m going to be a gate judge for the men's alpine ski events. So it's my job to see to it that the skiers go through the gates properly and if they don't, we mark them as disqualified,” Schmucker said.
That could mean crushing an Olympian’s dreams.
“Yeah, but I’d be even more nervous to be not disqualifying somebody that needs to be,” Schmucker said.
Schmucker is one of six ski patrollers from Bitterwseet Ski Resort in Otsego, MI who will be volunteering at the Olympics.
He and Andy Anderson both make the drive from Warsaw to Otsego on weekends to work the patrol.
“Absolutely, unquestionably it’s worth all the effort that it takes to make my commute to make it all the way up here to be on the hill every two weeks,” Anderson said.
That's no small task for Anderson. He was laid off from his job in Warsaw and now he works in Austin, Texas. So he only gets home to Warsaw on the weekends, and then makes the drive to Otsego every other weekend on top of that.
In a couple weeks, he will be adding on a longer trip -- all the way to Vancouver.
“Even though I’m on a brand new start up company where we're just hitting the ground running on our company, everybody's chipping in. They know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity… and my wife is so supportive because we only see each other every couple of weeks but yet she understands how important this is,” Anderson said.
Anderson will be working the ski patrol at the games, where he may be called on to treat injured skiers as he does on a regular basis at Bittersweet.
He says he looks forward to the camaraderie of other volunteers who will make the pilgrimage from all over the world to the games.
“It’s so much fun to be around people who love ski patrolling and who love skiing as much as I do,” Anderson said.
Schmucker and Anderson started applying for the volunteer spots three years ago. They also worked at a World Cup event in Vancouver last year to help their chances, by adding to their resume.
“After the World Cup I said, ‘If I don't make it to the Olympics it’s still a dream come true.’ Just to have had that experience and the opportunity to meet so many people,” Anderson said.
Their time in Vancouver isn't going to be all work.
“At Whistler they're going to have the bobsled event and I’m looking forward to going to them,” Schmucker said.
“[I’ll go to] the half pipe competition and see Shaun White get another gold medal,” Anderson said.
They not only get to be there, they get to be a part of the history of the sport they love.
“This is a chance of a lifetime. It's something I’ve been dreaming of all my life and I finally get to go. Maybe not quite like I dreamed, but I still get to go to the Winter Olympics,” Schmucker said.
Anderson will be in Vancouver for about two and a half weeks before returning to his job in Austin.
Schmucker will be there for about two months because he'll also volunteer at the Paralympics in March.
If you check our Olympic Zone page during the Olympics, both of them will be blogging for us from Vancouver. Their first blog entries are already online.