Countdown to Sochi — we’ll be there

Mark your calendars: Exactly one year from today, the 2014 Winter Olympics will begin. Therefore, it’s a good time to announce some great news: The Enterprise will once again send a reporter to cover the games firsthand – this time all the way to Sochi, Russia.

The photojournalist credential is approved, a hotel room is in the works, and while there’s still a ton more to do, we’re practicing our pronunciation of “SPAH-see-boh” (“thank you” in Russian), because we owe some major gratitude.

Mainly we are indebted to the Charles B. Decker Memorial Scholarship, named for a former Enterprise editor who died too young, which is providing critical funding for this venture. We thank the Decker family, the fund’s trustees, its donors and its administrators at the Adirondack Community Trust, as well as the Saranac Lake Rotary Foundation for facilitating the grant.

We couldn’t afford to do this on our own; the reason we could in 2002 and 2010 was because the reporters knew people they could stay with, wiping out the biggest expense – lodging.

For all of its 22 years, Decker scholarships have been given to high school graduates to study journalism (preferably print) in university. This year, however, the trustees decided to do something different, something that benefits more than just one local person at a time. They adapted it to give a local reporter the opportunity to do something he’s never done before, to cross a new professional horizon – and in so doing, to connect our local Olympians with the thousands of people who are proud of them, connecting them across the globe via the Enterprise.

To fit within the spirit of the Decker Scholarship, the reporter who received the grant had to have never covered the Olympics before. Therefore, it couldn’t be Senior Sports Writer Lou Reuter, who covered the games for us in 2002 and 2010, or Managing Editor Peter Crowley, who joined Lou in Vancouver three years ago.

So it’s Mike Lynch, our sports and outdoors writer who has raked in awards. He’s an excellent writer and photographer who has stayed committed to improving his craft since he began his career in the 1990s. He has covered Winter Olympic sports since 2006, covers them regularly in Lake Placid and covers our local Olympic hopefuls abroad. He knows the backstories and the intricate differences between different kinds of biathlon races – something Peter had to learn on the fly while covering them – and thanks to Lou’s teaching, Mike knows how to shoot photos of bobsleds and luges roaring down a track at interstate speed.

A year from now, Mike will be more than 5,000 miles away in the Caucasus Mountain resort town of Krasnaya Polyana, telling all of us all about our local competitors in biathlon, ski jumping, nordic combined, luge, bobsled and who knows what else. He’ll do a fantastic job – so long as he learns enough Russian to feed himself and find the bathrooms.

Why does the local paper bother going to such lengths? The Associated Press would give thorough coverage to our local athletes if they win medals – e.g., Bill Demong and Andrew Weibrecht in 2010 – but not to the ones in the middle of the pack. We saw that in stark contrast between the winter games in Torino, Italy, in 2006, when we didn’t send a reporter, and the ones in 2002 and 2010, when we did. Look at biathlon, for instance.

We’re all from in and around Lake Placid, a place where the Winter Olympics may mean more than they do anywhere else in the world, and these Olympians Mike will cover are our neighbors and friends. They’re working incredibly hard to make this quadrennial pinnacle. Local people follow them every step of the way in the pages of the Enterprise – all the way to Sochi.

So in addition to the Decker Scholarship folks, we must say “SPAH-see-boh” to our local Olympians and Olympic hopefuls who have devoted themselves to competing at the highest level in the world. Most people would think our small, rural area has no business sending so many athletes to every Winter Olympics, but this is a rare place, a special place where the crisp winter air tastes sweet and the Winter Olympic spirit burns especially bright. A place that can send 12 Olympians to a single games, as this area did to Vancouver, should send a reporter.

We’re also absolutely grateful to our readers and advertisers. You keep this small, local Enterprise going and let us keep these jobs, doing what we love and giving you everything you want from a newspaper. We do it all for you, and we’re glad you see value in the results.

We also think of Charlie Decker. A Saranac Lake native, he started writing for the Enterprise in the 1970s, became sports editor in 1979 and played a critical role in the 1980 Winter Olympics here in Lake Placid, putting in marathon days and nights to pull together the Daily Olympic Digest. He was called up the chain by Ogden Newspapers to work at two of our parent company’s West Virginia papers, but then returned and became managing editor of the Enterprise in 1983. He left in 1986 to be state editor at the Watertown Daily Times, being promoted to assistant managing editor in 1989.

He was extraordinarily talented, and he was only 34 years old when he died of a stroke in 1991 in Watertown.

We think he’d be psyched to hear this news. We hope you are, too.