Watch party from a world away
EAST MONTPELIER, Vt. - The alarm clock inside the Stephen's house rang earlier than most Saturdays.
"I didn't sleep much during the night for sure," Mark Stephen said.
"Sometimes I pinch myself and wonder if this is actually happening," Liz's mom Susan said.
It was a day that their daughter Liz Stephen was competing in the Olympics as a member of the women's 4 x 5k cross country relay team. Upon hearing that her parents were planning a live viewing party, Liz added her two cents.
"Well you have to get face paint and you have to get beads and that's awesome!" Susan said, mimicking her daughter.
Susan and Mark came prepared. At five in the morning, close friends and family around East Montpelier gathered inside the Stephen's home.
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"It's really heart warming," Susan said. "The support that that Liz has had from her community has been just wonderful for a very long time."
Over 20 people huddled around the television for a live stream of the race. Emotions ran high at the start, but an uncharacteristic slow start distanced the likelihood of a medal.
By the time Liz began the third leg of the relay, her team was well over a minute behind the leaders. The team would finish ninth, but it didn't stop her biggest fans from showing their excitement over her brief television appearance.
"So it's hard when it comes down to one race, but the one race doesn't define the skier or the person," Susan said. "It doesn't change how proud we are. I wish the results today were different, but they do too."
"As a parent you'd love to be able to throw your arms around them and let them cry on your shoulder and pull themselves back together, which is what this team will do for sure," Mark said. "Every one of them will be thinking about what the next race is by tomorrow morning at the latest."
Less than 30 minutes after her race, the phone rang. A familiar voice was on the other end.
"I just want to thank you all so much for coming by and have such a party," Liz said. "We felt all of your energy. Thanks for your support, you guys are the best."
A fitting way to return the favor to the loved ones who have always been there to support her.