Yooper Finishes Fourth At Olympics, Teaches Us About Guts
At 36 years old, Nick Baumgartner of Iron River is considered elderly in the world of teenaged Olympic snowboarders, but a fourth place finish in South Korea revealed a heart the size of the Grand Canyon.
Baumgartner injured his heel on a hard landing in the finals of snowboard cross, where he finished fourth, out of the medals. But he used his son as a crutch, both literally and metaphorically, to teach us all a lesson about grit, or as the Finns in the Upper Peninsula call it, "sisu".
In this beautifully penned piece by Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press, Baumgartner realized there is more to life than a shiny circle of metal.
“As a parent, to still be competing at 36 years old, to have my son here, to show him with my actions that you can do anything you want to do. Dream big! Unbelievable!”
“As soon as I stood up, after taking in a little bit of the pain, I stood up and looked for him immediately,” Baumgartner said. “I could see on his face. He wasn’t disappointed, so how can I be disappointed? If my son is stoked?”
Baumgartner had a unique ability to see gold in finishing out of the medals. He saw the big picture. He had been a part of a rag tag group of guys on the USA Snowboard Cross team that was not only a self described 'bunch of idiots', but had overcome huge obstacles to even make it to PyeongChang.
“It hasn’t been easy on any of us,” Baumgartner said. “I do concrete in the summer. Are you kidding me? I have an Olympic ring that’s full of concrete. I wear it on my finger and everyone is like, ‘Dude, you are super famous.’
"I say, ‘Look at my ring. There is concrete all over it and I just handed it off, so they could clean it. But I think that’s what makes it cooler for us. We fight every single time for this. … If you don’t think that you can do anything from where you’re from — and we got a plumber, a carpenter, a concrete guy and another construction worker — you gotta be kidding me. You can do anything you want to do."
When you consider that Baumgartner was carted off a course in Italy less than two months ago with two broken vertebrae, a broken rib and two bruised lungs, that is a huge understatement.
Seidel summed it up this way.
...Baumgartner taught his son how to chase a dream and never give up. Baumgartner plans to keep competing into his 40s, just like Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. “If Brady can do it, Baumgartner can do it,” he said. “I’ll be here in four years — absolutely! I’m still hunting for one of those medals. This is my third Games. If I gotta go until I’m 100 to get a medal, I’m going to keep doing it.”
Long after the competition, after the interviews were done, after all the TV cameras were gone, there was Baumgartner off in the distance, walking across the snow with his son.
They were alone now. Still arm in arm.
A moment that revealed everything.
The love between a father and a son.