Ice Network

Lenz-Jackson carries treasured Olympic memories

1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid continue to hold special meaning
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Sandy Lenz Jackson (center), pictured here with fellow Olympians Tina Noyes (left), Sheryl Franks (second from left), Peggy Fleming and Scott Allen, enjoys reminiscing about the time she spent representing Team USA at the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. -Courtesy of Tina Noyes

When sharing memories of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York, Sandy Lenz-Jackson initially thinks about her experience at the opening ceremony, which included extensive preparation and getting properly outfitted in the Levi-provided gear.

Although the Olympic Village was extremely modest by today's standards -- many athletes were housed in trailers -- it still felt incredible to be side by side with Olympians from all over the world representing a multitude of sports.

"There were so many remarkable aspects of that two-week period," said Lenz-Jackson, who earned her place at the Games with a bronze-medal finish at that year's U.S. championships. "To me, being there was a dream come true. Knowing you were around the best athletes in the world seemed pretty special. You could walk into the cafeteria and order anything you wanted at any time of day or night. They had an arcade and a movie room!"

Lenz-Jackson, who lives in South Carolina, still has most of her Olympic gear, including her skating costumes, which still fit. Daughter Emma, who skated until leaving for college this fall, enjoyed checking everything out.

"I've had occasion where I've done public speaking or been invited to be a guest at a function, and I've brought some of my Olympic paraphernalia," she said.

Although Emma never wore any of her mother's costumes, the two did skate a duet at their rink's Christmas show sporting matching outfits, with folks in attendance telling Lenz-Jackson how moved they were by the performance.

"That was my swan song in skating," said Lenz-Jackson, who skated professionally and toured for a number of years before settling down and becoming a full-time coach.

She returned to Lake Placid in 2015 to compete in the inaugural World Figure Championship. In preparation, she went to Florida and took a lesson from her former coaches, Evy and Mary Scotvold. She tied for first in the competition and finished second overall (because of a tiebreaker). Emma got to skate on the Olympic ice as well.

"She was able to skate in the main arena and take a couple of lessons from my dear friend (and Olympic teammate) Sheryl Franks," said Lenz-Jackson, who saw another teammate, Scott Hamilton, a couple of months ago when she took some students to his rink in Nashville.

Lenz-Jackson teaches the basics of compulsory figures to her students. She even has a weekly adult figures class.

"It's body awareness," she said. "The alignment and the discipline are something you can't learn outside of figures."

With another Olympic Winter Games soon at hand, Lenz-Jackson has reason to pause and think about the meaning of being an Olympian. Emma recently called from college to say that other students had checked out videos of her mom on YouTube.

"It's a lifelong title and something I always wear with gratitude," she said. "It was an honor to be a part of that team. It's nice that I can wear that badge through my life. When some of my students are introducing me or even my friends introducing me, they always bring it up.

"I've been in groups where I haven't brought that up because I don't want to be boastful, but when I am introduced, it tickles me that I can have that behind my name, because it is an honor," she added. "I look back with fond memories. It was a lifelong dream since age 8."

She'll be glued to her TV in February and may have friends over to watch some of the events in PyeongChang. And if those same friends ask to see some of her Olympic memorabilia, Lenz-Jackson will oblige.

"I'm looking forward to it," she said.