The 2018 Winter Olympics have arrived, and the U.S. has a record-shattering 242 athletes competing in Pyeonchang, South Korea, blowing its previous high of 222 Olympians at the 2014 Winter Games.
Team USA has 330 million collective fans cheering them on. Here’s a look at some of the ways the athletes’ hometowns are showing community support. Boasting an Olympic athlete as part of a town’s population is a source a pride for the community, which often come up with unique ways of showing their support.
#1 An Old-Fashioned Send-Off in Steamboat Springs
What better way to show your support for hometown Olympians than throwing a bon voyage party?
Steamboat Springs, Colorado, has produced 89 athletes for the Winter Games over the years, more than any other town in North America, and held an Olympian Send Off party in late January that gathered past athletes and residents together to wish good luck to the competitors heading off to South Korea.
The send off included a flag parade, fireworks and the lighting of the 20-foot Community Cauldron.
— Jennifer Broome (@JenniferBroome) January 28, 2018
Six members of Team USA hail from Steamboat Springs. Ben Berend, Bryan Fletcher, Taylor Fletcher and Jasper Good are competing in the Nordic Combined, while Arielle Gold and Mick Dierdorff are competing at the Winter Games in snowboarding.
#2 The Watch Party in Wrightwood
Dozens of members of the community gathered in the auditorium of Wrightwood Elementary School in Wrightwood, California, to watch hometown favorite Maddie Mastro compete in the snowboarding competition in the Winter Games.
Though Mastro fell twice in early runs, her supporters were undeterred, and knew what they needed to do.
We’re just going to have to be that much louder next time,” Principal John Garner said. “She’s still got one more run.”
The crowd came prepared with signs emblazoned with Mastro’s face, and supportive messages. Her former elementary school had transformed into a long-distance cheering section.
Mastro came in at 12th place in the women’s snowboarding halfpipe final. Though the 17-year-old did not medal in her first Olympic Games, she plans to keep snowboarding, while also beginning her first year of college.
#3 Crowdfunding in Clarks Summit for Cheering in PyeonChang
As Adam Rippon prepared to begin his Olympic dream, he was leaving one thing behind: the people that had supported him from the beginning, before his dream had morphed into reality.
Rippon’s younger brother, Brady, didn’t want to see him travel around the world, only to look into the stands and not see a single familiar face cheering him on. So, he started a GoFundMe account to raise travel and lodging money for his family to attend the Olympic Games.
So far, the community of Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, has raised nearly $19,000 to help the Rippon family with travel expenses. That commitment and support humbled Rippon, and he tweeted his appreciation.
— Adam Rippon (@Adaripp) January 21, 2018
Rippon, who is the first openly gay U.S. Winter Olympics athlete, earned a bronze medal in the figure skating competition.