But after fighting off a disappointing fall in the slopestyle competition, and illness last week, Julia Marino is close to her longtime dream: an Olympic medal.
The Westport snowboarder was 2nd after her first big air run yesterday, then finished 9th overall in qualifying competition. That earned her one of 12 spots in Thursday’s final.
Julia’s jumps — shown around the world — were preceded a day earlier by a special NBC report on her long friendship with Chaihyun Kim. Their journey together began at Long Lots Elementary School, and ended in South Korea.
They met in Long Lots Elementary School kindergarten, and for the next 3 years were inseparable.
They went their separate ways later, as kids do. But — as Julia became a US Olympic team snowboarder, and Chai a pre-med student at Yale University — their friendship endured.
Chai and Julia, age 6.
As Julia got ready to head to PyeongChang for the Winter Games, Chai and her family used their South Korean contacts to help Julia’s family find lodging and tickets.
It’s exactly the type of story NBC loves. Many Olympic viewers are casual — or even non — sports fans. By showcasing athletes’ back stories, the network hopes those viewers will be drawn into the drama of sports.
Area residents can tune in at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday, February 17, WNBC-TV Channel 4) for Julia and Chai’s story on “The Olympic Zone.” NBC stations around the country will also air the show; check local listings for time.
That segment should whet viewers’ appetites for Julia’s big air competition. It begins Monday (Sunday, US time).
Westport is justly proud of Julia Marino. Now — thanks to NBC Sports — the rest of the country knows why.
The network has given a shout-out to the Olympic snowboarder — and her family — in a widely viewed video.
She was interviewed, along with her parents John and Elaine, and sister Cece. Though her hometown was never mentioned, NBC showed clips of her riding her bike, trampolining, and at the beach.
The theme of the video was that Julia’s parents gave her a chance to take risks, dare and dream — in a “relatively safe environment.” For example, she was allowed to ride her scooter in the house (though other parents could not believe that was okay).
“She’s always done it her way,” Elaine says.
This weekend, Julia fell on her first slopestyle run. She was not alone: 41 of 50 athletes did the same. A controversy ensued over the wisdom of allowing the event to be held in high winds.
She finished 6th overall.
Next up: the big air event, next Sunday.
(Click here to see the full NBC Sports video. Hat tip: Kathie Bennewitz)
Justin Paul was a Staples Player. As in, the acting troupe.
He was not an ice hockey player. Nor did he play any other sport.
But the 2003 graduate will be everywhere at this month’s Winter Olympics.
As millions of viewers of last night’s Super Bowl noticed, “This Is Me” — a song composed by Paul and songwriting partner Benj Pasek — was the background for a dramatic, compelling NBC Sports ad.
The song — sung by The Bearded Lady (Keala Ssettle) in “The Greatest Showman,” an anthem of diversity and acceptance — fits well with the network’s goal of personalizing Olympic athletes, celebrating their many paths to success and achievement.
The ad will air frequently during the PyeongChang games. They begin Thursday.
“This Is Me” is having a run that Bode Miller would envy. It won a Golden Globe, and has been nominated for an Oscar. The soundtrack reached the top of the charts internationally, and was #1 on iTunes in over 65 countries.
So tune in this month for the athletes. And enjoy Westport’s own amazing artist — Justin Paul — too.
BONUS FUN FACT: Westport resident John Miller is chief marketing officer for NBC’s Olympics coverage.
He oversees all levels of the sport in the United States — from the millions of kids playing to the pros, and of course the men’s and women’s national teams. By virtue of this country’s size and wealth — if not our international soccer prowess — he’s one of the most powerful people in the global sports world.
In the coming months, his job will be bigger than ever. He’ll help lead a US bid — with Canada and Mexico — to host the 2026 World Cup.
He’s also charged with naming a new men’s national team coach, and putting together that shattered program in the wake of the Americans’ dismal failure to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia.
If things work out, that new President of US Soccer may be 1999 Staples High School grad Kyle Martino.
Kyle Martino, in the 1999 Staples High School yearbook.
The New York Times calls the Weston resident “perhaps (the) biggest name yet” to enter the race — and “the biggest threat” to current president Sunil Gulati. The 3-term president — also a Connecticut native — has not yet announced if he will run again.
Though just 36 years old, Martino has strong credentials. A Wrecker star — and Gatorade National High School Player of the Year — who went on to college powerhouse the University of Virginia, he earned Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year honors with the Columbus Crew.
He later played with the Los Angeles Galaxy — where he teamed with the legendary David Beckham — and appeared 8 times with the US national team. He scored a goal in an important World Cup qualifier against Panama.
After retiring from pro soccer, Martino became a television analyst. He covers England’s Premier League for NBC Sports, and is known for his astute insights, strong personality and great TV presence.
Martino announced a 3-pronged plan on his website, EveryonesGameUSA.com. The components include “transparency, equality and progress” in American soccer. He is particularly concerned about the financial barriers that deter some youth players, and the “mistreatment” of female athletes.
One obstacle Martino faced is that the presidency is unpaid. He and his wife — actress and blogger Eva Amurri — have 2 young children. But he’s assembled a consortium of backers; he’s launched a GoFundMe campaign, and if elected he hopes to turn the job into a salaried post. (Gulati is a senior lecturer in economics at Columbia University, and receives a stipend for sitting on FIFA’s executive committee.)
Kyle Martino and his wife, actess Eva Amurri.
Martino — who has taken a leave from NBC Sports — says, “I won’t be able to forgive myself if I don’t stand up for US Soccer right now. I didn’t dream of doing this job, but I know I have to do it.”
Other candidates include former national team players Eric Wynalda and Paul Caligiuri, among others. The election is February 10.
Win or lose, Martino will retain his affection for Staples soccer. Most recently, he led a project called “Etched in Stone,” honoring former players who died young. He did it in memory of his friend Drew Tursi, brother of Martino’s ex-teammate Brad Tursi.
Martino appeared at the dedication ceremony last month. It was one small — but important — way for him to give back to the game.
It’s one thing to win a World Series game at Fenway Park. The Red Sox have done it several times.
But to conquer a 140-foot-tall, 430-foot long snowboard jump to win the women’s Big Air competition at Fenway — well, only Julia Marino has done that.
The 18-year-old Westporter wowed the Boston crowd last night — and a national NBC Sports audience — with her very impressive 3-jump, 169.25-point performance.
Julia Marino, on NBC Sports last night.
NBC’s announcers were gushing in their praise. Male or female — Marino was very impressive, they said.
It was her 1st time ever in Fenway. She arrived late, not knowing until the night before that she’d be competing.
“I was so stoked,’’ she said. “I was so happy actually to be able to put down my runs and win. This is an amazing place to have a snowboarding contest. It’s definitely the coolest, most creative place to have a contest because it’s so unique. There’s never been anything like this. It’s just a big jump in the middle of a baseball stadium and that’s pretty cool to say.’’
Julia Marino soars high above Fenway Park.
Next up: Quebec Big Air.
And after that: Perhaps the 2018 Winter Olympics, in Korea.
(Click here for an NBC Sports video of Marino’s performance. Click here for the Boston Globe story.)
Kyle Martino may be the best player in Staples soccer history. As a Wrecker senior in 1999, he was named Gatorade National Player of the Year. He went on to star at the University of Virginia; was named 2002 MLS Rookie of the Year with the Columbus Crew; played 8 times for the US national team, and is now a noted Premier League analyst on NBC Sports.
But this post has nothing to do with soccer. Recently, Martino and his wife — actress Eva Amurri — lost their 2nd child in a miscarriage.
Eva — the daughter of Susan Sarandon — blogs regularly about her active, intriguing and holistic life. She has been very public about her miscarriage, hoping to raise awareness about that often-taboo topic. Last week, she asked Kyle to contribute his own insights.
Here are his sometimes painful, always loving thoughts:
“I lost the baby…”
Kyle Martino and Eva Amurri
There’s no way to prepare for those words. I was standing in line to check in to my hotel – the same mindless task I sleepwalk through every weekend – when my phone rang.
Hearing those words from Eva’s mouth, I sprung awake from my traveler’s daze.
The first emotion I felt was guilt. Of course this happened while I was away – every time Eva needs me most I seem to be on a plane or in a different time zone.
Almost instantly came anger. Her phrase repeated in my head, over and over, in my ears and my soul.
Years of shielding myself from emotional discomfort has trained me to move immediately to logic. So I began the calming method of systematically breaking down the sentence I kept hearing over and over. “Baby…The Baby…lost the baby…I lost the baby…”
It was her fault. I was overcome with a quick wave of judgment and blame. Why did she let this happen? What did she do wrong? Why did she let me get on that plane?
Anger – that hollow, pointless emotion was the shield I held so not to feel what I knew I couldn’t handle.
Holding on to that anger distracted me from the actual emotion I was feeling: sadness. I wasn’t mad at Eva at all. I was mad that I wasn’t there in the moment she needed me more than ever.
I walked over to a couch in the lobby and let this sink in. I cried for the first time in my adult life. (Don’t worry, my therapist is all over that one.) I cried because Eva said “I.” “I lost the baby.”
When Eva Amurri was pregnant with their 1st child, her husband Kyle tweeted, “#babygirl Martino’s 1st red carpet.”
Of course she didn’t lose the baby. This wasn’t her fault. There was nothing she could do. In fact, she couldn’t havedone more to make sure her body was the healthiest it could be to nurture life. It broke my heart that she felt responsible in that very first moment of grief. And I didn’t understand why she couldn’t see what I did: that having a healthy baby is a miracle, and we can’t choose when and where that miracle happens.
Those feelings continued through the immediate aftermath of the miscarriage. While she rewound the tape on her pregnancy and looked for errors, I appreciated her body for doing the right thing by closing the book on a miracle not meant to be.
We were on totally different pages – which drove a wedge between us. It’s the same difference that existed when Eva was pregnant with our daughter.
Eva made a connection with Marlowe well before I did. A tangible bond that only those 2 people can understand. Eva and Marlowe were soul mates the second she heard that heart beat (Eva would probably say even before that).
Being honest, I never really accepted that we were having a child until a 3rd trimester ultrasound showed Marlowe waving at the camera. It hit me in that moment that I would be a father. But Eva had long been a mother already.
Kyle Martino and Marlowe.
When she called me with the shattering news of this pregnancy, she already knew her baby and had been taking care of it. In Eva’s mind she was already the mother of 2. That connection, the bond, was broken that day – and Eva was devastated.
I know that losing our child was not Eva’s fault, but I understand now why she felt it was. Miscarriage is a very isolating experience. Eva withdrew for a while after it happened. I tried to be there for her, but I wasn’t able to relate to her specific pain. My heart was broken in a different way– and nothing I could do or say helped. It was only when Eva decided to do something very brave, in her saddest moment, that the cloud over us lifted. Eva decided she needed to talk about it…with everyone.
Eva told our story on her blog. She put our heartache out there for all to read.
At first I thought it was a bad idea. I thought miscarriage was a rare misfortune, and the few who experienced it suffered privately with curtains drawn. As far as I knew, miscarriage wasn’t something you talked about.
No one had ever mentioned to me that they had been through it. I had never read of someone’s personal experience. Was it really safe and smart to tell so many people such intimate truths about your pain?
I didn’t voice my concerns about sharing because I had been so inept at providing support in those crucial moments so far. I knew I needed to support whatever desire she had. The decision had been made.
Kyle Martino is one of NBC’s top analysts on English Premier League broadcasts.
Eva’s post went live, and we sat there silently. I could sense there was a weight lifted off her, but I feared the response could reverse the initially positive effects.
Immediately, support poured in. I’m not talking about the “I’m sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine how hard that is” support (although that was very much appreciated).
I’m talking about the “we’ve been there ourselves, we are here for you if you need us” support. I was blown away by how many readers wrote back with their own deeply sad stories of pregnancy loss.
Then the phone started ringing. Some of my closest friends revealed to me, one by one, their own experiences with miscarriage. These were people I speak to every day, but I never had a clue.
It felt so good to talk about what we were going through. The fact that others not only knew what we were going through, but had found a way past it, was uplifting. What had felt like an action that would add shame to our heartbreak turned out to be the most cathartic experience imaginable.
I could be honest and talk with friends about the guilt I still carried for my earlier feelings of blame; the insecurity I felt about not hurting the same way as Eva did; the worry I still shoulder that it could happen to us again.
A community began, a conduit through which sadness, regret, hope, gratitude and love flowed freely.
At our wedding, Eva’s mom said something that really struck me at the time. She told us, “We are your tribe. Use us.” In the aftermath of our loss, we established a new community – a reformulation of our relationships with those already a part of it, and the addition of people met through our shared experiences.
At his wedding, Kyle Martino’s new mother-in-law Susan Sarandon gave advice he’s never forgotten.
We used this community to get through the hardest moment of our marriage. I accessed a lot of understanding through my discussions with other dads, and Eva gained a lot of strength from the strength of the women who came before her in their own grieving processes.
The encouragement, compassion and love we received from important people around us gave us the courage to turn back to each other for support, and heal the disconnect that was weakening our marriage.
As with many of our struggles, we came out the other side stronger together in our loss than we could ever be apart.
I will never feel the same way as Eva about losing our baby. I have my experience, and she has hers. I have my process, and she has hers.
I don’t think about it often – but Eva does. She thinks about the baby we lost every day. And so we move forward, 2 broken hearts on the mend– with a beautiful miracle of a child by our side, and one other just out of our reach.
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