An Olympic medal is a powerful accomplishment that can never be stripped away. Shine on one of the biggest stages that sports has to offer and the achievement endures for a lifetime.
And if that medal happens to be gold, the “Olympic tag” becomes synonymous with the athlete’s name for eternity.
Three youthful Lake Tahoe ski and snowboard standouts — David Wise, Jamie Anderson and Maddie Bowman — proudly departed the Sochi Olympics as gold-medal winners.
A fourth Tahoe winter sports star — Julia Mancuso — left the 2014 Winter Olympics with a bronze, her fourth Olympic medal, the most ever by an American female alpine skier.
Although they didn’t come back with a coveted medal, give it up for Nate Holland, Marco Sullivan, Hannah Teter, Chas Guldemond and Travis Ganong. They represented the Lake Tahoe region with honor.
Here’s a look at the four Lake Tahoe medal winners.
* Jamie Anderson: Favored to win is never easy, especially at the Olympics. Just ask Shaun White.
Although White ultimately couldn’t deliver in Sochi, the favored Anderson certainly did, making her last effort her best one in the slopestyle competition.
Anderson, a Lake Tahoe product who grew up challenging all that Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort had to offer, laid down a superb run on her final trip down the tricky and somewhat dangerous slopeside course in Sochi to claim gold in the snowboarding competition.
Anderson’s victory meant an American sweep in the slopestyle event, which was making its Olympic debut. U.S. snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg won the men’s event.
“I think most of us have been thinking about this for a few years,” Anderson said. “To just have that moment come so quick and really knowing this is your moment, you just want to shine and do your best and show the world what a fun sport snowboarding is.”
* David Wise: He was nicknamed “The UnDude” by the New York Times, which kind of sums it up. He’s a married man with a cute 2-year-old young daughter and admits that family comes first and skiing is a distant second.
There weren’t many young Olympic skiers or snowboarders who shared that philosophy. Yet it worked for Wise, another one who wore the “favorite” tag when he dropped into the Sochi halfpipe last week.
Wise, 23, who lives in Reno and trains at Northstar California ski resort in Lake Tahoe, won on a day when the snow and the conditions certainly weren’t ideal. The only regret for Wise: He wasn’t able to deliver his A-game.
“This was run C, or run C combined partly with run B,” Wise said. “I was changing my run from moment to moment during practices just because the conditions were always changing. Sometimes it was fast, sometimes it was slow. Being adaptable was a huge advantage for me.”
* Maddie Bowman: Another Sierra-at-Tahoe product, the 20-year-old Bowman helped solidify Lake Tahoe’s standing as a region that produces excellent halfpipe freestyle skiers.
Bowman joined Wise as a halfpipe winner. One of the coolest and lasting moments of the Sochi Olympics was Bowman atop Wise’s shoulders, draped in the American flag, celebrating her gold-medal victory.
“The way I’ve gotten here is taking it one day and one competition at a time, and having absolutely as much fun as I could. And hey, it worked out,” said Bowman, who won gold medals at the past two Winter X-Games.
The humble Bowman offered congratulations afterward to U.S. teammate Brita Sigourney, who finished sixth and fell hard and scraped her face on the bottom of the pipe, leaving a nasty gash on her nose. Sigourney’s coaches and medical staff rushed out to help her. Right behind them in her ski boots was the woman wearing bib No. 2 — Bowman.
“Maddie is so funny. She said that she wanted me to win and that she’s so proud of me. I told her to shut up because she deserves this more than anyone,” Sigourney said. “It was the most technical run out of any girl skiing. It’s more technical than any run any girl has done all year, plus it’s got amplitude and style. She’s just got it all.”
* Julia Mancuso: She has a penchant for capturing medals at the Winter Olympics and was able to do it one more time in Sochi.
The pride of Squaw Valley ski resort, Mancuso claimed another medal, taking a bronze in Sochi in the super-combined alpine skiing event.
Mancuso couldn’t reach the podium again in three other events. She was eighth in both the downhill and super-G, and failed to finish in the final event, the giant slalom.
“It takes everything coming together. It has to be that magical day,” Mancuso said.
She knows all about magical days. The first one happened eight years ago when she was the giant slalom champion at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
Four years later at the Vancouver Olympics, Mancuso shared the spotlight with U.S. teammate Lindsey Vonn. Mancuso earned silver medals in both the downhill and the combined.
The bronze was the first medal for the U.S. in alpine skiing in Sochi.
“I grew up in an Olympic Valley (Squaw Valley). It’s in my blood,” Mancuso said of her tendency to deliver in big events.
— Jeffrey Weidel can be reached at [email protected] Visit his winter website at www.tahoeskiworld.com