Good Luck Nick Baumgartner!

Olympian Nick Baumgartner visited elementary, middle school and high school students and gave an inspirational speech at West Iron County High School on Feb. 2. Baumagartner will compete in the snowboardcross competition at the Winter Olympics for the third time.
‘Underdog’ Baumgartner heads to third Olympics
By Jerry DeRoche
IRON RIVER—A huge part of the Nick Baumgartner story is that of the underdog. He’s the small-town guy from a remote part of the United States that trains at his former high school gym and the local ski hill.    
    His major sponsor, Ponsse, is a company whose origin stems from the countryside of Finland, with North American branches in places like Rhinelander and Gladstone.
    The out-of-the-way nature of Baumgartner’s story and his rise to three-time Olympic snowboarder is the stuff of fantasies. But the 36-year-old from Bates Township has made his visions come true, over and over again.
    Baumgartner will compete in his third Olympic games this year when the 2018 Games are held Feb. 9-25 in PyeongChang, South Korea. Before setting off on his lengthy trip from Iron River to Green Bay to Chicago to San Francisco to Seoul, South Korea and then to PyeongChang, Baumgartner embarked on a speaking tour of U.P. schools.
    His most unique and personal stop was, of course, at West Iron County.
    “I’ve been doing other presentations at other schools and I haven’t cried yet,” Baumgartner said to open his speech to the assembled elementary, middle school and high school students at Charles Greenlund Gymnasium on Feb. 2. “But ….”
    At that point, the local hero began to choke up.
    An enthusiastic crowd, which included his parents Bobby and Mary, his son Landon, and other relatives and friends and members of the community, greeted Baumgartner with chants of “U.P. Power!” and “U.S.A!”  During his speech to the students, Baumgartner said he relishes his role of the underdog, the guy who started snowboarding much later (at age 15) than most others on his team.
    “I work out in the same gym as you guys,” Baumgartner said. “We have smaller facilities with less finances (available). But I always root for the underdog. I’m from Ski Brule - they said it’s too small of a hill (to train on). But that just means we have to work a little harder.’
    Hard work is not something Baumgartner shrinks from. No athlete could come close to becoming an Olympian without a drive and perseverance that is beyond the norm. And Baumgartner recently displayed all that inner fortitude again after he suffered fractured vertebrae, a broken rib and bruised lungs during a race in Austria.
    A month later, Baumgartner showed U.S. Snowboard team officials that he has not only recovered, but he was ready and able for his third Olympic selection.
    “I was hurt real bad and all the odds were against me,” Baumgartner told the students. “No. 1, I’m too old. No. 2, now he’s hurt. So they counted me out. I use that as fire. It’s that West Iron County Wykon work ethic and that’s the kind of thing I’m going to take with me to the Olympics. I’m going to represent us.”
    Baumgartner said he has high hopes for his first Olympic medal.
    “I finished third the last time I raced on this course. It plays to all my strengths. But I’m not going to worry about the results. I’ve done all the preparation.”
    After his short speech, Baumgartner took a few questions from the students. One asked him if we would be nervous.
    “Absolutely. But that’s a
 good thing.”
    He was also asked if he was uneasy about bringing his mother and his son to a troubled part of the world.
    “I was nervous, but North Korea is sending athletes (to the Games) now and an orchestra for opening ceremonies. I was afraid to bring my son, but now I want him to take a photo for Instagram at the demilitarized zone.”
    One student asked Baumgartner about the current political climate around the globe.
    “Olympics is about sport, bringing the world together, even if for a short period of time,” Baumgartner said. “It’s honest and gives us a chance to put politics aside for a while.”
    “I’ve been all over the world and you have no idea how fortunate you are to live here. People in North Korea don’t have the chances we have. So ‘U.S.A.!’”
    And shortly after, Baumgartner grabbed a large flag and jogged around the gym to cheers from the crowd, a group of people that are certainly behind their local underdog.