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Olympic Center a safe, inspiring place to walk

January 22, 2014 - Andy Flynn
This week: 448 lbs.

Last week: 446 lbs.

Start weight: 470 lbs.

Total lost: 22 lbs.

Sitting in a red seat at the top of the Olympic Center’s 1980 Rink, I was reminiscing about the time I’d spent there conducting interviews with figure skaters and state Olympic Regional Development Authority officials when I was a staff writer for the Lake Placid News in 1996 and 1997.

It was cool, like a refrigerator, and the white rink lights hummed overhead. I was again looking for someone to interview, this time about walking around the 1980 Rink, which is a popular winter activity for residents avoiding the snow and cold.

It wasn’t long before a man briskly walked by me holding an orange-and-black portable MP3 speaker. Glenn Miller was playing. This man, who looked like he was in his mid-50s, disappeared in the shadows on the other side of the rink. I thought I missed my opportunity, so I leisurely walked around taking photos.

When I got to the far end, I saw the man again, working out with a large, green rubber band. Resistance training. I asked if he worked at the Olympic Center, as a lot of employees walk around the rink during their breaks, and it was lunchtime. He said, “No.” He was in the middle of an exercise routine, so I arranged to meet him at the other end of the rink in 10 minutes for an interview.

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Art Sparrow wore a gray T-shirt that matched his mustache and the curly hair underneath his faded red Patriots cap, placed backward in rally-cap style. He looked fit for 66. Work as a commercial fisherman and carpenter at his former home in Cape Cod kept him in shape, but life in Lake Placid has slowed him down. He pinched a tiny fat roll on his stomach to prove that he has some weight to lose.

“Every day, there are people doing this,” Sparrow said. “Some older folks kind of stroll around to stay nimble, and then you’ve got other people that run it. I don’t run. I walk.”

Sparrow moved to Lake Placid in the fall so his 15-year-old daughter could train as a figure skater. She goes to the Lake Placid High School, across the street from the Olympic Center.

“Like every figure skater’s dream, I suppose she wants to take it as far as she’s able to,” Sparrow said. “She trains hard, and she loves what she does.”

Thursday, Jan. 16 was his fourth day working out at the Olympic Center. He spends time outside in the non-winter months, but in the winter, he likes to exercise inside.

“In the fall, we were climbing mountains, hiking. We do a lot of hiking,” Sparrow said. “But while my daughter’s in school here, I have to be nearby, so I come in here and use this facility, which is a real blessing to have in town.”

On Cape Cod, there is no such facility, so they relied on the outdoors for exercise, even in the winter.

“We have beautiful beaches down there, so we would use the beaches as a facility to run and exercise,” Sparrow said. “We would dress appropriately and hit the beaches.”

Sparrow enjoys the ambiance of the Olympic Center — the camaraderie of other walkers and the inspiration it draws from being the home of the “Miracle on Ice.”

“At home, I could do a lot of exercising, but it’s boring,” Sparrow said. “It’s hard to make yourself work that hard at home. There definitely is a motivation here. You meet new people. And then the history of this place. It’s very inspiring to think about what took place on this ice down here in 1980. Most of the people that walk through that door are in awe just to be here because they’ve seen the movie like everyone else on the planet.”

Sparrow remembers watching the famed hockey game on television during the 1980 Olympics when the U.S. team beat the Soviets 4-3.

“You could have heard me from Cape Cod,” Sparrow said. “It was just incredible. My daughter and I have watched that movie more than a dozen times, and we never get sick of it.”

In addition to his resistance training, Sparrow walks 10 laps around the outer loop of the 1980 Rink, which is 2 miles.

“Then I walk up and down every stairway here one time at a fast pace,” Sparrow said. “Down one, up the other, down one, up the other. It’s supposedly the equivalent of a mile.”

There are 28 stairways, not including the two short ones at each end.

“Those two tiny ones, they’re not worth doing,” he added.

Sparrow tries to walk at least 4 mph, completing five trips in 15 minutes or less, all while playing big band music of the ’30s and ’40s.

“To me, it was quality music. Today, music is nuts,” Sparrow said.

Since moving to Lake Placid, Sparrow has been looking for work as a carpenter and hasn’t been as physically active as he was in Massachusetts.

“I began realizing that I’m falling apart, so I come here now,” Sparrow said. “I’m trying to put myself back together again.”

Sparrow has no grand plans to walk a marathon or the 46 High Peaks.

“I just want to be able to keep up with my kid,” he said.

Next week: I finally get my Do Eat List!

Contact Andy Flynn at


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Blog Photos

Art Sparrow looks at the 1980 Rink in the Olympic Center, where he walks laps to exercise during the winter. (Photo — Andy Flynn)