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North Country Olympians, with Bill Demong at left, ride in a float own Saranac Lake's main street on Wednesday.  Photo:  Mark Kurtz
North Country Olympians, with Bill Demong at left, ride in a float own Saranac Lake's main street on Wednesday. Photo: Mark Kurtz

Another North Country Olympic parade, then what?

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A boisterous crowd turned out in Saranac Lake Wednesday afternoon to celebrate Olympians from the North Country who competed in Sochi.

A small parade marched down Broadway. Then people gathered in the town hall for one last celebration, with music singing and autograph signing. Mayor Clyde Rabideau also recognized athletes who competed in past Olympics.

This marks the end of the drama surrounding the 2014 Winter Games. But many of these athletes are already back on the professional World Cup circuit, competing and trying to earn a living through their sport.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

Click here for Nancie Battaglia's awesome slideshow of images captured in Sochi, along with other photographs taken by NCPR's crew here in the North Country.

A warm reception on a chilly winter day in Saranac Lake.  Photo:  Mark Kurtz
A warm reception on a chilly winter day in Saranac Lake. Photo: Mark Kurtz
Ski jumper Peter Frenette from Saranac Lake and biathlete Tim Burke from Paul Smiths say it was an awesome homecoming.

"Community's come together to help us celebrate going to the Olympics, it's really cook," Frenette said.

Burke, who just arrived home from Europe, said it was "a great welcome home" with local residents "really embracing" their Olympic athletes.

This  was the third big rally in the region for returning athletes.  Lake Placid celebrated last week and the town of Remsen also held a big party for returning luger Erin Hamlin who captured bronze in Sochi. 

Yesterday’s Saranac Lake parade and rally capped an amazing moment in history for Saranac Lake.  Five Saranac Lake high school graduates competed in Sochi – including Vancouver gold medalist Bill Demong.

"Having us as people to look up to, I think the local children will put themselves in a position where they think that's possible for them, too," Demong said.

Sochi bronze medalist Jamie Greubel, who lives and trains in Lake Placid, shares her medal at Wednesday's celebration.  Photo:  Mark Kurtz
Sochi bronze medalist Jamie Greubel, who lives and trains in Lake Placid, shares her medal at Wednesday's celebration. Photo: Mark Kurtz
One cool aspect to this celebration is that it highlighted the long tradition of the North Country supporting athletes who spend years, decades sometimes, preparing.

Jamie Greubel has lived and trained in Lake Placid for six years – she captured a bronze bobsled medal in Sochi.  

"I just think that this place has such a special connection to the Olympics," she said.  "It's just been the best possible place to train."

At yesterday’s rally, Saranac Lake village Mayor also nodded at that fact that the Adirondack co mmunity has been training and nurturing Olympians for decades – with a half-dozen past Olympians in the crowd.

This was small town stuff, but at times, the gathering was emotional – with Saranac Lake high school’s chorus raising the roof God Bless America.

The party also captured some of the pure fun of Sochi – organizers projected a dance video on a big screen that was produced by Saranac Lake biathlete Annelies cook while she was in Russia.

Annelies Cook, a biathlon racer from Saranac Lake, signs autographs.  Photo:  Mark Kurtz
Annelies Cook, a biathlon racer from Saranac Lake, signs autographs. Photo: Mark Kurtz
Cook says that part of Sochi – the friendship, the time spent with her family – was a really important part of the Winter Games.

Where do these athletes go next? 

As Sochi is chalked up to the history books, it's important to nod once at the fact that a lot of these athletes, including Annelies Cook, are already back in competition.
As Sochi is chalked up to the history books, it’s important to nod once at the fact that a lot of these athletes, including Annelies Cook, are already back in competition.

Lowell Bailey, a biathlon racer from Lake Placid, says he didn’t medal in Russia, but he had a great year on the world cup circuit.

"The post-Olympic world cups have gone really well for me," he noted.  "I had the top result of my career in the Finland world cup a couple of weeks ago."

And Nordic combined gold medalist Bill Demong says he’s now firmly on board for one more year competing.

Demong and the other athletes here say they’re also looking to the future by supporting a big push to improve Dewey Mountain, Saranac Lake’s town-owned cross-country ski area.  That’s where many of these Olympians got their start.

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