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Emotions run high for Moorhead native's Olympic dream

When someone you love - a son, a husband, a former star pupil - finally fulfills a long-held Olympic dream, get out the tissues. Figure skating isn't like baseball. There's plenty of room for crying. Or at least there was on Saturday, when Moorhe...

Mark Ladwig
Mark Ladwig

When someone you love - a son, a husband, a former star pupil - finally fulfills a long-held Olympic dream, get out the tissues.

Figure skating isn't like baseball. There's plenty of room for crying.

Or at least there was on Saturday, when Moorhead native Mark Ladwig was named to the U.S. Olympic team - half of one of the two pairs teams that will compete in the Vancouver games next month.

Seeing Ladwig reach the pinnacle competition of the sport he's been working at since he was a kindergartner let loose tears from Spokane, Wash., where his mother was in the stands watching, to back in Moorhead, where his boyhood coach was glued to the TV.

"I've been crying for two days. I'm just so excited," said Dawn Franklin, who coached Ladwig in the Red River Valley Figure Skating Club from age 5 until he graduated from Moorhead High School in 1999.

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Franklin got the news Saturday night in a voice-mail message from Carol Ladwig, Mark's mother.

"I had to play it three times because she was hardly breathing," Franklin said.

Ladwig's success also got the waterworks going for Jean Paseka, president of the metro-area skating club Ladwig still calls his home club despite training full-time in Florida.

"It just sends goose bumps through you," Paseka said of hearing the club's name mentioned as Ladwig's base. "Mark has always been a fantastic ambassador for our club."

Meanwhile, his mom was worried for Mark's wife, fellow Moorhead native Janet Beverly, as she made her way to the podium at the U.S. Championships.

"She was just shaking so hard, I thought she was going to fall," said Carol Ladwig, a former Moorhead School Board member.

Ladwig himself is still on cloud nine, he said in a phone interview Monday from Spokane, Wash., where he and his partner of eight years - Amanda Evora - will perform in a televised exhibition on Sunday to show off the newly minted U.S. Olympic team.

"It really validates all the hard work," said Ladwig, who broke through to the Olympics while performing in his 10th national tournament.

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That work extends back about a quarter-century to youthful lessons often held at the crack of dawn, the only time figure skaters get ice time at local rinks when hockey is in season.

"I was really glad the day came when he could drive," Carol Ladwig said.

Franklin said as a young skater, Ladwig stood out for his charisma, positive outlook and athleticism. His gung-ho take on skating was clear in middle school when he did a program dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire to a song by Aerosmith, she said.

"He had a lot of life in him," she said.

Ladwig's connection to his hometown is by no means in name only. He and Evora come back for the club's annual spring contest like clockwork, a big lift for young skaters, Franklin said.

He said his cell phone has "blown up" in the last two days; he's taken more than 400 messages from old friends and other well-wishers.

When floods came last spring, he cashed in frequent flier miles racked up flying to skating events and came home to help sandbag. When the Urban Plains Center was being built in southwest Fargo, he was tickled to take a tour of the new facility.

"I've always been a kid of the valley," said Ladwig, whose wife gave birth to their first son on Sept. 13.

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Paseka said she hopes the exposure Ladwig will bring in Vancouver helps spur a larger-than-average Olympics-year bump for the club, which usually has about 100 members.

That would please Ladwig, who said he loves representing his hometown on such a big stage.

"It still gets me in the pit of my stomach," he said.

Related Topics: MOORHEADOLYMPICS
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