CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine — Hundreds of well-wishers welcome Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott back to his home mountain on Saturday afternoon and the snowboard cross champion allowed that he faced some tough work after the official ceremony.
“Give me a little while. I might have carpal tunnel [syndrome] by the end of it, but I’ll try to get to all of you. I’ll see you in a while,” he told the Sugarloaf throng as fans began to queue up for a scheduled autograph session.
Wescott, who grew up in Farmington and now has a home at Sugarloaf, has won two straight gold medals in his specialty — the only gold medals that have been awarded in the sport since it was added to the Olympics for the 2006 Torino Games.
His most recent victory was a come-from-behind win on Feb. 15 in Vancouver.
Wescott said he’s proud to wear red, white and blue, but he never forgets exactly whom he’s representing.
“It’s amazing to think that I represent my country, but for me and in my heart, when I go out there on that stage, I’m a representative of the state of Maine,” Wescott said.
“There’s something that feels truer to me about being able to come back and say thanks to everyone who believed in my dream along the way. That’s everyone here at Sugarloaf and that’s everyone in Maine,” he said.
Gov. John E. Baldacci introduced Wescott to the crowd and declared Saturday “Seth Wescott Day.” He also claimed Wescott as an official ambassador for the state of Maine.
“It’s a perfect day because we’ve got Seth Wescott here,” Baldacci said. “Someone who’s never forgotten his roots, never forgotten his friends and his family, and who has always represented us so well.”
Wescott made his grand entrance while snowboarding behind a group of young skiers and riders, and stood on a deck overlooking a packed patio Sugarloaf officials call “The Beach.”
Sugarloaf officials couldn’t have asked for a better day for the ceremony: Temperatures were in the mid-40s, the sky was cloudless and just a slight breeze blew.
Wescott won’t remain in Maine for long: He held a press conference on Saturday morning, did more interviews after the conference, and on Monday he will embark on a national tour to promote the Seth Wescott Come Ride With Me SBX Tour.
Annie Anderson, a 17-year-old fan from Old Town, said she took time away from her own snowboarding on Saturday in order to have her board autographed by Wescott.
“It’s exciting. He’s won two medals and is legendary here, and is from Maine,” said a beaming Anderson. “It’s just cool.”
Elizabeth Helmreich, an 11-year-old from Sanford, was one of the first people in line to get an autograph, and said the wait was worth it.
“It just was amazing because I’ve always looked up to the Olympic players because I want to be like them someday,” Helmreich said.