I just wanted to take a moment to send my prayers and thoughts the Neal family for the loss of their son, Willie, who I have come to learn was a remarkable young skier and more importantly was an amazing person, teammate, brother and son. It is a tragic loss for his family, the Maine Winter Sports community, and the nordic community throughout the whole country.
Willie died on Sunday evening when he was hit by a car rollerskiing with a fellow teammate. [For more information: http://blogs.fasterskier.com/editor/ ] I did not know Willie personally, or his brother Elliot, who both moved to Fort Kent, ME this summer to train for biathlon and join the Maine Winter Sports Center biathlon team, but I have enjoyed learning more about him and his contributions. I spent four years in the County and know how closely knit this community is and how deeply felt is this tragedy. I also know nordic skiing is a sport and lifestyle that strongly bonds so many of us together...so many more than our close circle of skiers. We all circulate nationally and internationally through races, training camps, clubs, etc. and even if we only meet one another in a race, as a coach, or as a young skier commented about Willie, only on one training day where Willie lent him his poles and offered some technique advice; through skiing we have a great influence upon one another that extends our abilities for generosity, compassion, competiveness, empathy and knowledge. Thus, it is a collective loss.
And all together, it is a gain. Take good care to watch out for your self and your teammates and be safe running, biking and rollerskiing on the roads.