Bellefontaine snowboarder ‘thankful’ for Olympic experience
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
SPRINGFIELD DEANERY — One word that surfaces frequently when interviewing snowboarder Louie Vito is “thankful,” whether he’s describing his recent Olympic experience or expressing his thoughts on the support from home.
The 21-year-old Vito, the son of Lou and Judy, members of St. Patrick Parish in Bellefontaine, wrapped up an eventful year Feb. 17 in the Winter Olympic halfpipe finals.
|The Vito family poses with Louie in Vancouver. His older sister, Linzee, is at left.|
After placing fifth in his first run with a score of 39.1, behind teammates Scotty Lago and Shaun White, Vito was able to improve on his second run, but only by three-tenths of a point. He stayed in fifth place for the remainder of the competition. Teammates Shaun White and Scotty Lago scored the gold and bronze medals.
“I was hoping to win a medal, but my goal was just to land the run, so I can’t complain,” Vito told The Catholic Telegraph Feb. 27, as he prepared for the next day’s closing ceremonies. “Snowboarding is such subjective sport. People booed my scores so that’s a good sign.”
“I wasn’t really that nervous,” he said. “I was thanking God for helping me to get there. My friends and family helped me, too. You don’t get anywhere by yourself. All the support is what keeps you going, all the prayers and everybody pulling for you. I’m nothing but thankful for that.”
He expressed his regret at not being able to attend Ash Wednesday Mass on the day of his runs.
The support from Bellefontaine was tremendous for Vito. Mayor Adam Brannon declared Feb. 12 Louie Vito Day, and on the Sunday before the young snowboarder’s event, Father Patrick Sheridan, pastor at St. Patrick, included him and all Olympians in Mass intentions.
Whether they gathered at the town theatre or tuned in at home, “Everybody was watching Louie,” said Anne Reames, pastoral assistant. “We take such pride in seeing him use his talents. We couldn’t be more proud of him for doing his best.”
His parents and older sister, Linzee, also expressed their pride in the young Olympian. “The Olympics were a great experience for Louie,” said Judy Vito. “We’re more proud of him than ever of how well he did and how he conducted himself.”
“I live with Louie and have been through this whole journey with him,” added Linzee Vito. “It’s been an amazing experience. The fact that he’s forever an Olympian and I was able to share it with him…it’s hard to put into words how that feels. He seriously is a great guy and I’m so proud of him.”
Lou Vito said his son is “happy, but not satisfied” with his Olympic performance. “He knows he did his best. Some kids tend to blame the judges and go into a funk, but not Louie. He enjoyed every moment of the Olympics and is now on to next thing.”
Vito described his Olympic experience as “super cool” and “a dream come true.”
“Snowboarding is such an individual sport, but there is a real sense of teamwork and camaraderie with the other American athletes,” he said.
That camaraderie was particularly evident when fellow snowboarder Kevin Pearce was critically injured while training for the Olympic qualifiers on Jan. 1.
“All of us were there and saw it happen,” Vito said. “It’s hard seeing someone you know who’s been a friend since you were 13 go down hard. It was really a reality check to be grateful for what you have. One hard fall can change everything.”
Pearce has since been transferred out of critical care and is making progress in rehabilitation. “His family has needed support and we’ve been trying to give it to them. We’ll be there for the whole road of his recovery,” said Vito.
His Olympic appearance as well as his stint last fall on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” has also been a reality check for Vito in terms of dealing with the pressure of being in the spotlight. “It’s definitely hard,” he said. “Things can be taken the wrong way. Something that you think is harmless can come back to bite you.”
“Snowboarding has changed since I got into it,” Vito added. “It’s become more mainstream. That makes it hard because you become a role model to little kids. It’s pretty to cool to have them look up to you, but you really have to think about what you do and say.”
His solution, said Vito, is to just be himself and try to do what is right.
With the 2010 Olympics behind him, Vito will now head to France to unwind before taking part in the winter European X Games. He hopes to be at the 2014 Olympics, but said it is too early to think that far ahead. “I’ll get more focused as the time gets closer,” Vito said.