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Eric Peterson, Published November 14 2013

'Road to Sochi Tour' showcases Olympic sports during Fargo stop

FARGO – Nicholas Ruohonen raced down the street luge ramp Thursday afternoon in the parking lot of Scheels All Sports.

The 9-year-old from Brooklyn Park, Minn., smiled when he described the experience.

“It’s like going sledding and stuff,” Ruohonen said. “It’s really fun going fast down it.”

The luge simulation was part of the “Road to Sochi Tour” that made a stop in Fargo in conjunction with the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling, which is being held at Scheels Arena.

Thursday was the first of three days for the Fargo tour stop at 1551 45th St. S. The event is open to the public from noon to 6 p.m. each day through Saturday.

Fargo is the third stop in the tour, said Chester Wheeler, senior director of national governing body marketing. The tour leads up to and through the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

“We showcase all of these Olympic sports so kids can try it and maybe we can inspire somebody to get into a sport and eventually be an Olympian,” Wheeler said.

The “Road to Sochi Tour” started in New York City’s Times Square on Oct. 29 with 200,000 people going through the exhibits there, Wheeler said. He hopes around 5,000 people go through the exhibits over the three days in Fargo. The tour will end in New York City at Grand Central Terminal on Feb. 23.

“We think that it is important for the American public to get an idea of what the Olympics are all about,” Wheeler said.

Ruohonen got his taste of the Olympics on a crisp November day. He was in town to watch his dad compete at the Trials for curling. Rich Ruohonen plays for Tyler George’s team, one of five men’s teams in the competition.

“It’s been fun watching him,” Nicholas said.

Jodee Wirtanen of Hibbing, Minn., was also in town to watch curling. She decided to check out the “Road to Sochi Tour” between games. Wirtanen didn’t seem too eager to experience the street luge ramp.

“I doubt it,” Wirtanen said with a laugh. “I think I will bring my grandson back for the luge.”

Biathlon, bobsled, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, ice hockey, ski jumping, snowboarding and speedskating were among the sports highlighted in the exhibits.

John Benton, an Olympian in curling in 2010, participated in the event Thursday afternoon. He said Olympic years have been important in growing curling.

“It’s always big every four years, and what we’re trying to do is change that,” said Benton, who is from Minneapolis. “I don’t think we’ll ever be mainstream by any means, but the fact that we get so much coverage in the Olympics and people are so attracted to it, I think this year the sport is ready to pop and it’s probably going to reach its peak here in this country.”

A new $2.7 million Fargo-Moorhead Curling Club was just completed. Benton also talked about a new club in the Twin Cities, along with clubs in states like Florida, Texas and California as examples of how the sport in expanding.

“You are seeing growth in the sport where you have never seen it before,” Benton said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com