Gov. Herbert hosts lunch for Olympians and Paralympians

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert has declared March 23 Olympic and Paralympic recognition day. He invited all the Olympians with Utah ties to lunch to celebrate.

Many of the athletes at the lunch were more than happy to show off their medals. Shannon Bahrke won bronze in women's moguls.

Steve Holcomb was also there. He and his bobsled crew won gold -- the first time for the United States since 1948. Bill Demong, the first American to win gold in the Nordic combined event, was also there.

Jeret "Speedy" Peterson won silver in men's aerials with his signature "Hurricane" jump.

"Kind of funny being a redneck from Idaho, having all this bling," Peterson said. "Dressing up and hanging out with governors, kind of funny."

Herbert invited all the athletes to lunch at Rice-Eccles Tower at the University of Utah to thank them for their accomplishments. He pointed out that of the 37 medals the U.S. teams took home, "Sixteen of them that we received have ties to Utah, homegrown or those who have adopted Utah as their home state. It's a great legacy we've spawned from the 2002 Olympics."

During the lunch, each of the athletes told about how they came to be an Olympian and how Utah's mountains and facilities helped them achieve their goals.

"Definitely having the ski team here in Utah has furthered my career," Peterson said. "It's something I would not have been able to do without the facilities. And living up in Park City, the lifestyle is amazing. It's everything I've ever wanted."

"I am a California girl, I love the sunshine, and I found a piece of that here," Bahrke said. "I don't think I could have done it without living here."

The lunch and day is also to honor Paralympic athletes, but many were not able to attend. They are still making their way home from Vancouver for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.



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