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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Olympian Sage Kotsenburg sits with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert during press conference in advance of the Governor's State of Sport Awards at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah Tuesday, April 22, 2014.
Olympics: Utah governor celebrates homegrown medalists

First Published Apr 22 2014 08:06 pm • Last Updated Apr 23 2014 04:37 pm

Long before he became a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Ted Ligety remembers being just an average member of the Park City Ski Team.

Not being one of the best skiers in his age group "really drove me," Ligety said Tuesday, when four of Utah’s homegrown Olympic and Paralympic medalists of 2014 were honored at EnergySolutions Arena.

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The homecoming event was part of the annual Governor’s State of Sport Awards, staged by the Utah Sports Commission. Slopestyle snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg of Park City (gold), bobsledder Steven Holcomb of Park City (two bronzes) and Paralympic snowboarder Keith Gabel of Ogden (bronze) joined Ligety at a news conference, along with current Utah resident Chris Creveling, who won a silver medal in short track speedskating, and Park City’s Sarah Hendrickson, who became the first woman to compete in an Olympic ski jumping event.

Gov. Gary Herbert congratulated the athletes, noting that 14 contestants with Utah ties helped account for the 28 medals won by U.S. individuals and teams in Sochi.

Utah’s Olympic 2002 legacy, with facilities that remain in use and athletes who were inspired by Salt Lake City’s Games, was a theme of the news conference. Living in Utah gave these athletes access and opportunities, and they took advantage of them.

Ligety, whose first gold medal came in 2006, won the giant slalom event in Sochi. Growing up in Park City, "I was able to see my heroes every single year" in the America’s Opening World Cup competition at Park City Mountain Resort.

Kotsenburg, whose family moved from Idaho to Park City when he was 4, loved having a ski resort "five minutes from my doorstep."

Hendrickson watched the men’s ski jumping event at the Utah Olympic Park when she was 7 and appreciated how the operation "kept the legacy alive" for her and other women who pursued the event’s inclusion in the Games. Hendrickson recovered sufficiently from a knee injury to compete in Sochi, but was not in top form. "I know exactly what I need to do in these next four years," she said.

In Gabel’s case, snowboarding "helped me get back on my feet, once I lost my leg," following an industrial accident, he said. And then the Park City-based National Ability Center "got me into the competitive realm."

Creveling, a New Jersey native, has lived in Utah for five years. Besides skating at the Utah Olympic Oval, he uses Rice-Eccles Stadium, the site of the 2002 Opening Ceremony for training — by running the stairs.

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