POSTED: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 - 4:39pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 - 6:13pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — While all eyes will be on Sochi starting Feb. 6, many people here in the Baton Rouge Area are also involved in winter sports themselves.
These people who we met are not going to Russia, but they’re bringing Sochi to Louisiana. There's some serious competition on ice here at home.
Ice Skating Instructor Barbara Gai is teaching kids locally. "We start off at the beginner level, and we work up to the levels with the US figure skating program," Gai explains. Lizzie Wicker and Jordan Banta from Baton Rouge are two ice skaters who've made their way up into the ranks under the direction of Gai. "I never knew i would become a teacher until I saw the children mesmerized by the spin, and I was that way. So - I wanted to hand back the sport," Gai tells Boudreaux.
Lizzie Wicker and Jordan Banta say they'd love to compete with USA Olympic athletes. But, the reality is - Louisiana just doesn't have the training and resources to bring them up to that level of competition. Wicker says, "It's challenging with just three rinks in the south. We are only about twelve figure skaters." She tells NBC33 she's going to compete for as long as she can, despite the hurdles.
Over at Leo's, it's more than just figure skating. We're told ice hockey is becoming an addiction for many people in the area. A Canadian man named Yuri Vukojevic helps to run a local ice hockey league, and he's played a major part in making the sport more popular in the Baton Rouge area. "We kinda take what we can get, right. And we want to pass on the game as best we can, basically," Vukojevic explains. Their league is called the Bruhaha League.
Workers at Leo's say, some sports in the Winter Olympics - like ski jumping and curling - will never catch on in Baton Rouge. So, you'll have to settle for seeing those during NBC33's Winter Olympics coverage every four years.
The Winter Olympics start on NBC33 Thursday, February 6, 2014. Opening ceremonies are slated for Friday, February 7, 2014. If you're a Lolo Jones fan, you'll be able to see her in the two-women bobsled events that start on February, 16, 2014.