Medals are money, but for most athletes competing in the Winter Olympic Games, the experience means everything.
Fruitvale Olympian Joe Cecchini realized his dream when he rocketed down the Olympic Sliding Centre track in his first day of skeleton competition on Wednesday in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Following the first two heats, Cecchini sat in 24th spot, a combined total of 3.33 seconds behind the leader and Olympic favourite Yun Sungbin of South Korea, but just 0.31 seconds out of the top-20 qualifying time needed to advance to the final run.
Cecchini didn’t expect to win a medal, and neither did the Italian National Team for which he competes. On any given run, Cecchini is only about 1.5 seconds off the top time, but with top speeds reaching close to 140 km/hr and placings decided by hundredths-of-a-second, it may as well be an eternity in the sport of skeleton.
Sungbin set the track and starting records during the second heat on Wednesday, blasting down in a time of 50.28 seconds to beat Latvian Martin Dukurs record of 50.64 set in March 2017. Sungbin’s combined time after two runs was 1:40.35, a virtual mile ahead of Russian athlete Nikita Tregubov, 1:41.09, and Dukurs at 1.41.23.
Cecchini’s first two runs clocked in at 51.88 and 51.80 for a combined 1:43.68, and he needed to lay down one of his best runs of the week in Heat 3 in order to finish in the top-20 and slide in the Olympic final.
Joe has already reached his goal of competing at the Olympics, but a skeleton finals showing would certainly be icing on the cake for the 35-year-old Calgary police officer.
Whatever happens, sharing the moment with his parents, Mark and Patricia Cecchini, a vocal contingent of cheering fans at the track, and those in Greater Trail, at home and abroad, has given us all a taste of the Olympic experience.
“Words cannot describe the emotions that you feel when watching your son compete in the Olympic Games,” wrote the Cecchini’s on Mark’s FaceBook page. “Knowing that so many family and friends were watching and cheering from around the world made it that more special.”
“Congratulations Joe – you reached your goal – you are an Olympic athlete. Wear those rings on your chest with pride.”
The third heat hit the track at about 5 p.m. P.T. Thursday, but the results were unavailable at press time. The final was scheduled to run at 7 p.m. P.T.