Countdown to the Olympics: Local athletes talk Olympics

(WEAU) - The countdown is over and the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics has finally arrived.

All week long, we've been counting down to the Sochi games on Sunrise, sharing an inside look at winter sports like ski jumping, curling and figure skating.

For the next couple of weeks, all eyes will be on Russia, as athletes prepare for a chance at a medal.

"I love watching ski jumping in the Olympics,” says ski jumper Nick Mattoon with the Eau Claire Flying Eagles.

"The Olympics is an amazing boost for us,” says Mike Hoepner, President of the Eau Claire Curling Club.

"As a figure skater you know what goes into what they're doing,” says 14 year old Emma Lauer, of the Eau Claire Figure Skating Club.

The Olympics are here and local athletes are ready!

"One of the skaters about a week ago said, I want to quit school during the Olympics so I can just watch everything,” says Nancy Kirst, Eau Claire Figure Skating Club Coach.

No matter what winter sport you play, athletes are finding their own reasons to enjoy history in the making.

"You see how people actually go to the sport and watch it in the Olympics, like thousands of people and you just think it’s great because that just advertises the sport,” says Nate Mattoon, a ski jumper with the Eau Claire Flying Eagles.

"I get so nervous, but I get so excited, but I get really nervous at the same time too. I try really hard to watch it live, especially when it’s in a place like Sochi and you could find out ahead of time. I just like to watch it live," says Kirst.

It’s even a business booster for some sports like curling.

"Our club has gone from about 85 members as recently as 6-7 years ago to between 250 and 300 members now. We attribute a lot of that the Olympics in 2010," says Hoepner.

But, some look forward to seeing professional athletes compete in the sports they too spend hours practicing.

"It’s obviously my favorite thing to watch in the Olympics. When I'm over in Europe they have it on Euro sport and I watch it all the time,” explains Nick.

One former Olympian knows just what it’s like to wear red, white and blue.

"I just remember that chance of saying here I am, a world class athlete and I'm walking next to people that are admired by millions. Those moments it really hits you,” says Mike Peplinski, who competed in the 1998 Nagano Games.

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