Utahns party with U.S. Olympians to kick off Sochi 2014

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Olympic speed skating gold medalists Chad Hendrick (pictured) and Derek Parra celebrated the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Provo, taking photos and signing autographs with their gold medals in hand. (Photo by Erica Palmer)

Olympic cheerĀ filled Provo’s Utah Valley Convention Center on Friday as families gathered to watch the opening ceremony and hang out with two USA team gold medalists.

The Olympic viewing party was a first-time event with more than 1,000 in attendance.

Ray Child, Comcast’s senior director of public relations, said they put on the event to share their excitement about the Olympics with the community and to keep Utah’s Olympic spirit bright.

“Utah as a state is one of a select group of locations in the world that has hosted the Olympic Winter Games. It’s a great honor. It’s a tradition worth keeping alive,” he said.

Derek Parra and Chad Hendrick, Olympic speed skating gold medalists, spent the evening taking photos and signing autographs for excited USA fans.

They both agreed that one thing is necessary for success in any area of life: passion.

“The ones that are very passionate on what they choose in life are going to be the best,” Hendrick said. “I have always set the bar very high for myself and dreamed the wildest dreams. Just dream big and go after it.”

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Aliva Dixon, 5, on left, and Maya Jacobson, 6, spent the evening making their own gold medals decorated with sparkly silver stars. They plan to be in the Olympics one day, Maya as a swimmer and Aliya as an ice skater. (Photo by Erica Palmer)

Along with a chance to mingle with champion athletes and watch the opening ceremonies on the big screen, the party also offered free snacks, craft tables, face painting, a raffle drawing and a photo booth with Olympic props.

“I think it’s great to give back to the community,” Parra said. “Once upon a time I was just this kid with a dream. If we can reach these kids at a young age and give them a head start with that, I think it’s a great gift.”

For Parra and Hendrick, this was their first time watching the ceremony on TV since they began their Olympic careers.

“It’s bittersweet, but I’m so proud that other people get to live the dream that I did,” Hendrick said.

 

 

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