MBSEF: Training tomorrow's Olympians
BEND, Ore. - It takes years of training before an athlete can get to the Olympics, but in Bend there's an organization which helps young athletes train to maybe one day participate in the Games.
The Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation is where young athletes learn the basics of cycling, snowboarding and skiing.
The foundation has even trained some of the athletes you may have seen in this year's Olympics.
For almost 30 years, MBSEF has trained athletes in alpine, Nordic and free ride skiing (not to mention its key role organizing its main fund-raiser, the U.S. Bank Pole Pedal Paddle).
Now, 500 athletes train and compete weekly. One of those athletes is 14-year-old Lili Bouchard.
"This is my life now," Bouchard said. "It's a huge part of every day, and everything I do kind of revolves around it."
After your first downhill race, it's easy to get hooked. Ian Lafky started competitive racing when he was 10, and loves the camaraderie.
"I get to meet a lot of new people from different high schools across Bend, and really people from different cities and stuff," Lafky said.
The program allows kids to compete all over the world, learn valuable lessons and build lifelong friendships.
"Many of these kids go to races each week and they see the same friends," said MBSEF Executive Director John Schiemer. "They travel together as a team, and they build some great friendships."
Schiemer has been with the race training organization since 1997, and through the years he's seen some of the best skiers in U.S. history grow and learn, like Tommy Ford, Laurenne Ross and Kevin Francis.
"Those kids are the icing on the cake, but what makes a huge difference on our program are all the other kids," Schiemer said. "What do they accomplish in their skiing career? What colleges do they attend? What they go on to do after college?"
She might just be in middle school, but Lili already competes with high school kids. She looks up to 18-year-old Winter Olympian Mikaela Shiffrin, who is the youngest American skier to claim a national alpine crown.
"Everyone looks up to her because she does slalom, does Super G and is just inspirational," Bouchard said.
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Whether you like to go fast, or take it easy, skiing provides a one-of-a-kind experience.
"It's like a feeling of being on the edge I guess," Lafky said. "It feels like you're doing something right," Bouchard said.
"You can't really get that feeling from playing football or soccer," Lafky said.
"There's nothing in the world that can stop you from doing what it is you're doing," Bouchard said.
So, will we be seeing Lili and Ian in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea?
"I've decided that's what I want to do. That's where I want to be," Bouchard said.
"I used to strive for that, and then I realized it's better to just enjoy it while you can," Lafky said.
"If I don't make it, that's alright, but it's my goal," Bouchard said.
The youngest athletes who train through the program are 7 years old, with some of them going all the way up until college.
Don't worry adults, there's something for you as well. There's a master's age program that trains during the week and competes on the weekends.
Learn more at: http://mbsef.org/