February 24, 2014
Butte native heads to Sochi for Paralympics
This week, Butte native Erin Popovich is heading to Sochi for the Paralympic Winter Games. Only this time, the winner of 14 gold medals will be working behind the scenes instead of competing as a swimmer, as she’s done previously.
“I’m definitely excited. It’ll definitely be an adventure,” Popovich said in a phone interview.
In addition to her bevy of medals, Popovich has also set world records and received many awards, including EPSN’s 2005 ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete with a Disability.
As a competitor, Popovich, 28, had no idea how much work went into the games. She started working for the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2010 after retiring from competitive swimming. “There’s so much going on behind the scenes that I had no idea,” she said. “It definitely gives you a new appreciation for all of it.”
While Popovich sometimes misses swimming, she’s looking forward to new challenges. “It’s a different feeling not competing but it’s also nice not to have that pressure,” she said.
She enjoys getting to see the games from a different perspective. “It’s pretty cool to see the other side of sports — the behind-the-scenes stuff,” Popovich, who competed for 12 years, added.
Popovich, who was born with a genetic disorder called achondroplasia, will oversee about 40 athletes competing in alpine and snow board events. She is also working on their classifications.
Popovich will be in Sochi for just under a month. One thing she isn’t too excited for is the 11-hour time difference between her current residence in Colorado and Sochi. “It’ll be a rough first couple of days,” she said.
The opening ceremony will be held March 7. It will be aired on NBCSN at 11 a.m. EST. Popovich said she doesn’t get to hit the pool as often as she’d like, but she did get some swimming in this week. Her position with the games keeps her quite busy. It also has her traveling often. But, she says she’ll always be a Montanan at heart.
“Butte will always be my home,” she said.
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