WHITEHALL — With its economic struggles and empty storefronts, Whitehall hasn’t had a lot to cheer about in recent years.
On Monday, though, official word came that Whitehall native Codie Bascue had made the U.S. Olympic bobsled team.
“It’s awesome for a small town like Whitehall,” said Rick Lambert, one of several patrons at the Elks Club expressing their hometown pride. “It puts Whitehall back on the map, and in a good way.”
“I think it’s great, very excited for him,” Rich Lavin added. “Everybody’s up for it.”
Bascue, 23, was named to pilot one of the three U.S. two- and four-man bobsled teams that will compete in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month. This will be his first trip to the Olympics after years of preparation at the World Cup level.
The Whitehall High School graduate from nearby Dresden began his bobsled career at the age of 8, in the Whitehall youth bobsled program that was started by his grandfather, Al Bascue.
Codie Bascue will certainly have plenty of hometown fans rooting for him when he begins competition on Feb. 18.
Marissa Huntington, manager of the Historic Grounds coffee shop on Main Street, grew up with Bascue before moving to Hudson Falls in third grade.
“My grandmother was his babysitter, so we grew up together,” Huntington said. “He’s always been into (bobsledding). It’s not often that a little town like Whitehall has someone going to the Olympics.”
Around the corner at Putorti’s Broadway Market, owners Francis and Cheryl Putorti have been longtime sponsors of Bascue’s bobsledding pursuits. They are planning fundraisers to help out his family when they travel to South Korea next month.
“Whitehall is a small, little town, it doesn’t have a lot to offer a lot of people, so this is great that we’ve got an Olympian,” Cheryl Putorti said. “I’m just excited because he’s a local kid that’s done so well, and the community should be behind him and support him.”
“We’ve always supported him from day one,” said Francis Putorti, who brought out a pair of little wooden bobsleds given out by the Whitehall youth bobsled program as thank-you gifts. “They’re a very humble, quiet family. His mother worked for us when she was in school.”
Cheryl Putorti said they plan to order banners for local businesses to display their support for Bascue at the Olympics.
“We’re just waiting for the commitment from certain businesses to make sure we have the money, and we’ll push that button and I can have them in a week,” she said. “It’s coming fast.”
“It’s a super honor — words can’t describe what an honor it is to have Codie in the Olympics,” Francis Putorti said.
Down the road at the Lake Champlain Coal Company, Codie’s mother, Pam, said she spoke with him on Monday morning.
“It’s just kind of hit me today,” Pam Bascue said. “He Facetimed me this morning and said, ‘Mom, I’m an Olympian.’
“It’s kind of overwhelming, we’re kind of taking it all in. We’re ecstatic for him, very proud of him,” she added. “Everybody’s been rooting for him, pulling for him and hoping for him, so I’m sure everybody’s just as excited as we are.”
The Winter Olympics get underway on Feb. 9.
“I am so excited, proud, humbled, grateful, and happy to announce that I was officially named to the 2018 U.S. Olympic team today and I have the privilege of representing my country and @usabs in Pyeongchang, South Korea next month!” Bascue wrote in a post on his Instagram page. “I don’t even know where to begin. Thank you so much to everyone that has supported me and helped me get this far in my journey. Family, friends, teammates, coaches, fans, everyone. Thank you all so much. This wouldn’t have been possible without all of you.”
Bascue has been the top American driver in the World Cup standings this winter. He opened the current World Cup season at Mount Van Hoevenberg in November with a gold and bronze medals in two-man races. He later won a silver medal during a four-man competition in Park City, Utah. This past weekend in Switzerland, Bascue piloted a four-man U.S. sled to sixth place.