Steamboat Springs, CO – With a total of seven Olympic medals in tow, the U.S. Ski Team’s nordic combined superstars Billy Demong (Vermontville, N.Y.), Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, Colo.), Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) and Brett Camerota (Park City, Utah) have shipped off to the Middle East to visit the troops as part of the 2010 Heavy Medal Tour.nThe Olympic heroes received a sendoff of gold-medal proportion on Friday as the town of Steamboat Springs came together to celebrate their success and wish them well overseas. Saturday morning, another huge crowd gathered at Steamboat’s airport in Hayden, Colo., as the four boarded the jet for the first leg of their journey in full military battle dress.
The celebration kicked off in the morning Friday with the four athletes visiting three of the town’s schools. They were greeted by swarms of children eager to see the medals, get autographs and even sing the Olympians a special song.
Then, after an autograph signing for the town that lasted over three hours with lines still out the door, the athletes hopped in sleds to parade through the snow with their families down Steamboat’s Lincoln Avenue.
“It’s not one entity or organization, but the entire community that openly embraces these athletes and plays a key role in establishing the core foundation for Ski Town, U.S.A.,” said Jon Roberts, city manager for the City of Steamboat Springs. “The Hometown Heroes Celebration is a way for the entire community to come together to celebrate the Olympic spirit and all that these athletes have accomplished.”
“Steamboat has a rich tradition in snow sports and an Olympic heritage that dates back nearly 80 years,” said Rick DeVos, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. “The spirit to strive for greatness and the unwavering support of athletes of all ability levels, allowing them to fulfill their dreams, whether that’s just getting started in the sport or competing on the international stage, is truly what makes this community unique and sets Steamboat apart from any other place in the world.”
Following the night of excitement, the Olympic medalists were off to the Middle East. For security reasons, their destinations have remained primarily undisclosed.
According to World Champion Lodwick, the experience he has had with the troops has been eye opening.
“To see some of the soldiers, and actually see where they come from, that’s when it really hit me – these guys are doing it for us,” Lodwick said. “To give back to these guys, it’s beyond words. I almost get choked up. It’s pretty cool.”
From his Facebook page, Demong, who won the first gold medal in nordic combined for the U.S., noted he gained inspiration from the troops he was meeting.
“First full day in Middle East. I met a lot of folks who sacrifice a ton to be here. Totally inspiring! Going somewhere off shore tomorrow,” Demong said.
Judging by the pictures of Demong, Spillane, Lodwick and Camerota, the men have been spending time on various bases, as well as on an oil platform in the middle of the Persian Gulf and flying in a Desert Hawk helicopter.
And, in a majority of their online photo galleries, the Olympians are putting their medals around the necks of as many soldiers as they can.
With his silver from the team event on over a “flak jacket,” Lodwick noted one of the many purposes of hacing the Olympic medals on tour with them.
“If this thing ain’t bulletproof, it is now,” Lodwick said, pointing to the medal as a source of armor.
The Olympians will be touring the Middle East for two weeks.