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qualifi ed for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, by .06 points, the veteran pairs team celebrated for a moment and then be- gan tackling the logistics of getting their families to the Games. Suddenly thrust into the Olympic spotlight — the pair had never fi nished higher than fourth place in eight appearances at the U.S. Champi- onships — Evora and Ladwig scurried behind the scenes to secure plane tickets and housing for their loved ones. Fortunately for the Florida-based team, the

Olympics were relatively close in Canada, and their friend and fellow competitor, Rockne Bru- baker, transferred his accommodations over to them after he and his partner failed to qualify for the Games. Ladwig counts himself lucky that things

worked out so well, understanding that often- times this isn’t the case. Athletes carry with them, he said, not only the pressure to compete, but also the weight of making sure that their support

Mark Ladwig encourages skating fans to support the Destination Sochi giving programs.

system is fi ne and taken care of. T at’s why Ladwig is one of the main pro- ponents of U.S. Figure Skating’s Destination So- chi™ program. T e program, in part, is designed to help get the families of the 15 U.S. Olympic fi gure skating athletes to Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Games, scheduled for Feb. 7‒23. Under the umbrella of Destination Sochi™

is the Family Tree Program, which invites U.S. Figure Skating supporters to purchase a leaf to add to the Family Tree. T e goal is to raise a min- imum of $5,000 for each Olympian to help with the expense of getting skaters’ families to Sochi. All proceeds from the Family Tree Program go to this cause. “Representing the United States is a huge

responsibility,” Ladwig said. “Most of us aren’t going to get the chance to serve in the military

or really give of ourselves, so to be part of the Olympic movement and represent our country is an honor. To carry the title for the USA takes a lot of focus, intense energy and it’s very draining. To have peace of mind that your family is being assisted, and they aren’t going to have to worry, means a lot.” In Vancouver, Evora and Ladwig turned in two personal-best performances en route to a 10th-place fi nish. As much as he’ll remember skating on the Olympic rings, Ladwig carries with him the memories of walking in the Open- ing Ceremonies and the happiness of being able to share the experience with his family once the pairs event ended. “When you are done you have that big

sigh of relief,” said Ladwig, who had his parents, brother, sister and wife rooting him on in Van- couver. “You are just exhausted and you want to share everything with your family. To go out there and do something special and to have them there is really key.”

28 JUNE/JULY 2013

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