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Roby Politi: a Lake Placid love story

23 January 2023

“Lake Placid is a magical place. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve recommended to people that they should just go down and walk around the 1980 Rink, The Miracle on Ice rink, because it’s magical in there.”

A two-time NCAA All-American in alpine skiing, Roby Politi was one of the most outstanding athletes in St. Lawrence University history.

One of the highlights of his sporting career was competing at the 1972 FISU Games in Lake Placid.

His appreciation for Lake Placid continued throughout his life, including time as the town’s mayor. To this day, he is still very much involved in his community.

The Young Reporter Programme (YRP) sat down with Roby Politi at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games.

YRP: What are the best memories you have from the 1972 Games?

At that time, it was considered the Friendship Games, that’s really what it was all about. But the thing that I thought was interesting about that is, unfortunately, a lot of the athletes did not speak English in 1972. So even though it was a friendship games, it was hard to communicate between us.

I remember being at the top of the slopes with a Japanese fellow who was the favorite and we couldn’t speak to each other because he couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Japanese, but we shared a tea before the start. It was kind of cool.

YRP: What comparison can you make between the 1972 Games and the 2023 edition here in Lake Placid?

The 1972 Games were dramatically different than these Games. Particularly considering the glitz and glitter of Games today. The quality of the athletes was the same but the quality of the venues was far different.

But the spirit of the people is the same. The volunteer base was tremendous in 1972. I can remember looking down the slalom course and seeing all the volunteers lined up. That’s the same way it is today because I’ve been out volunteering on the alpine course. The spirit of this community was we wanted to put on the best event that we could at that time, and it’s still the same today.

YRP: What was the most valuable aspect of your career as an athlete at the time?

I think that when you’re an athlete, it broadens your horizons. The world of sports strengthens an athlete’s understanding of fairness, integrity, sportsmanship, and the ability to work with other people to make things better. Also, understand that success comes from failure and as an athlete, we all have tremendous failures. Hopefully those failures strengthen your ability to have success in the future.

YRP: How did your relationship with Lake Placid continue after the 1972 Games?

After I graduated from St. Lawrence University, I decided to stay in this community. I’m probably one of the few real local natives that people will meet here.

I opened a real estate company and then I got involved from a political basis in the community, and eventually became the mayor of Lake Placid, and then the town supervisor for 16 years after that. I was very actively involved in the coordination of events and in helping decide what events came here, and was part of the decision-making team to bring the FISU World University Games back.

YRP: If you could give one advice to a student-athlete, what would it be?

Stay fair to yourself. Set your goals. Do your best but the most important things in life are health and happiness. If you don’t have it, you have nothing. If you’re not happy in your job, find another one. If you’re not happy in a relationship, you need to work on it. But you need to be happy.

It’s nice to be an accomplished athlete, but it’s even more important to be able to give back to the community and give back to others, because athletes are recognized as important people, and young people look up to them.

Interview by Julieta Boschiazzo, FISU Young Reporter