Olympians celebrate 100 days until Vancouver

A very confident adolescent boy stopped skating around the Rockefeller Center rink to ask Gretchen Bleiler something.

“What do you do?” he wanted to know.

She gamely turned the question around on him – learning he plays football and baseball, among other sports – before revealing that she’s a snowboarder.

Bleiler and other U.S. Winter Olympians descended on the New York landmark Wednesday to celebrate a milestone moment: 100 days until the Vancouver Games. It was a chance to show off what they do as they make the final preparations for their sports’ biggest stage.

Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, a 2006 Olympian in aerial skiing, drew a crowd with his high-flying tricks on a trampoline, bouncing and flipping on a pair of skis. Sarah Hughes, the 2002 figure skating gold medalist, took to the rink with a group of New York schoolchildren, who shrieked with delight as they tried to stay upright on their skates.

“Especially being down here with all the other sports and the media that comes in, it’s definitely like, ‘OK, now it’s really close,”‘ said biathlete Lowell Bailey.

A hundred days can feel like a very short time to people who operate on a four-year plan. Ever since the U.S. relay team surged to a strong ninth-place finish at the Turin Games, Bailey has been consumed but what it will take to win a medal.

Aerial skier Emily Cook counted backward from February 2010 as she designed her training plan to ensure a high enough degree of difficulty in her jumps to finish on the podium in Vancouver. During the summer of 2008 she started working on a “double full full” – a triple twisting double backflip. It took about 18 months to master it.

“I can’t believe it’s 100 days out,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Bleiler, the 2006 silver medalist, feels far more prepared than she did before her first Olympics. She won’t have much time for nerves between now and February: There will be five events to even qualify for the U.S. team, then the X Games.

“The 100 days is going to go by so quickly, but I know a lot is going to happen in those 100,” she said. “It’s just kind of like that anticipation before it all begins.”