The U.S. Olympic Snowboarding Team, photo by NBC's Tina Cerbone.
After spending a few hours with the U.S. Olympic Snowboarding team in Bardonecchia, you can't help but feel as if you're watching a real life version of the film "Napoleon Dynamite." You'll never meet a more eclectic, interesting and humorous group of young people. They listen to hip hop, rock and reggae while they board. They sleep late whenever possible and eat everything from tofu to (as Napoleon's grandma calls 'em) dang, quesa-dilluhs!
Six members of the team are 21-years-old or younger and many of them sport the sort of nicknames you'd expect to hear while watching the WWE-- like Lindsay "Lucky" Jacobellis and Shaun "The Flying Tomato" White, aptly named because of his ability to get "big air" and of course his free-flowing, curly, auburn mane. Even their snowboarding moves have nicknames, like Danny Kass' famed "Kasserole," which is his must-see human, kick flip.
Perhaps the team personality is best represented by 16-year-old Elena Hight, the diminutive daredevil, who at 5'1" is barely tall enough to get on some amusement park rides. Hight, a superpipe phenom who is known for her spinning ability and is still the youngest woman to land a 900 in competition, told me that this team -- like any other family -- has its own cast of characters -- from the crazy uncle to the big sister to a couple of bratty brothers. She wouldn't name names but she says she wouldn't have it any other way.
"Family is so important to me, so it means a lot that my real family is coming to the games, but when they're not around, this is my family and I love them -- quirks and all," she says.
And you don't have to spend a great deal of time around the team to see that they feel that way about her too.