February 7

Maine rich in Winter Olympic tradition

Since 1948, the state has had at least one athlete competing on the Olympic snow and ice.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Maine’s first Winter Olympian got to the games almost by accident.

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John Bower of Lewiston, 1968 games in Grenoble, France

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Kirsten Clark of Raymond, Salt Lake City games in 2002

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Geoffrey Mason, a 1923 Bowdoin College graduate, had traveled to Europe to further his studies. According to legend, he was studying at the University of Freiburg in Germany when he noticed an advertisement in the Paris Herald asking for American athletes in Europe to go to St. Moritz to try out for the U.S. bobsled team.

Mason, who had run track and played football at Bowdoin, made the trip to Switzerland in 1928 – and not only made the bobsled team, but won a gold medal.

He never competed in the bobsled again. He returned to the U.S. and became a teacher and a coach.

Thus began a long line of Winter Olympics competitors from Maine.

Since 1948, when Wendell “Chummy’’ Broomhall of Mexico competed in cross country skiing in St. Moritz, Maine has had at least one competitor in every Winter Olympics. This year in Sochi, Russia, Russell Currier of Stockholm will compete in the biathlon.

Over the decades, 37 athletes who were born in Maine or attended school here have competed in the Winter Olympics. They include Seth Wescott, who grew up in Farmington and has won two gold medals in snowboardcross; Bode Miller, a New Hampshire native who attended Carrabassett Valley Academy and has five won medals in Alpine skiing; and the Parisien siblings, Julie, Rob and Annalise, who competed in Alpine events over three Olympic cycles.

Competing in the Olympics, said Wescott, is made more special by knowing how much the state is behind you.

“You are representing your country,” he said. “But it feels more like you’re representing your state. Those are the people that you interact with and that have supported you. ... When you’re there, at the Olympics, you’re carrying all those people’s hopes and dreams.”

Wescott, who now lives in Carrabassett Valley, failed to qualify for the Olympics this year as he tried to work his way back from a knee injury.


Four Mainers competed in the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France: John Bower, Tom Upham, Jim Miller and Jack Lufkin.

Bower, who’s now 73 and living in Moab, Utah, said he and his fellow Mainers didn’t think anything of the four of them being together in Grenoble.

“It was unusual,” he said, “but I don’t remember having a great amount of Pine Tree celebration.”

Bower, a Lewiston native who graduated from Edward Little High School, competed in the Nordic combined and cross country skiing in the 1964 and 1968 Olympics. Upham, an Edward Little graduate from Lewiston, and Miller, of Mexico, were also on the nordic combined team in 1968. Lufkin, of Rumford, was on the cross country ski team.

Nordic skiing was a smaller community back then, with Maine near its center. Chummy Broomhall began a string of Maine nordic skiers in the Olympics that included Robert Piddacks and Charlie Akers.

“It became a goal for us to get on the U.S. national teams, get to the world championships, get to the Olympics,” said Upham. “We knew it was possible because other people had done it.”

Upham, who’s now 70 and living in Wilton, was flying high when he made the 1968 team.

“John Bower, who was just a few years older, was my hero,” he said. “And here I was, on that same 1968 team with him. It was a big deal to me.”

Bower, who went on to coach at Middlebury College, said the draw of the Olympics was as strong back then as it is now.

“The Olympics and the world championships, those were the epitome,” he said. “Those were the ultimate achievements for us. There was no World Cup. You focused your training, your whole athletic life, on making the Olympic team or the world championships.”

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Seth Wescott, who grew up in Farmington, with his gold medal from Turin, Italy, in 2006.

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Eric Weinrich, right, who has deep ties to Maine, was the first University of Maine hockey player to make the U.S. Olympic team, in 1988.

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Farmington native Dan Simoneau, shown with President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter, carried Maine’s Nordic torch in 1984 in Sarajevo and in 1988 in Calgary.

Photo courtesy of Dan Simoneau

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