KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Officially this has not been proclaimed the Christian Niccum farewell tour.
Fellow lugers from around the world haven’t showered him with parting gifts at the Sochi Winter Olympics. They haven’t given the Woodinville, Wash., resident a rocking chair attached to a toboggan.
But at age 36, with a wife and three small children, with nearly 20 years of international competition already on his resume, Niccum knows the goodbye party isn’t far away.
More Olympics coverage at the KING 5 Olympic Zone
He knows it so very well during his twice-a-day Skype chats with Bobbie Joe and their kids: 5-year-old Hayden, 2-year-old Harley and 18-month-old EmmaJo. They’re half a world away in Woodinville, living in the upstairs of his parents house. He’s halfway up a Russian mountain range, rooming at the athletes’ housing complex.
He misses them dearly.
Niccum left Seattle on Jan. 1 to compete at the World Cup. Since then, he has been to Latvia, France, Germany, Austria and now to the Black Sea coast of Russia.
“It’s long, it’s hard,” he admitted. “I guess during the Opening Ceremonies they saw a little one-second clip; ‘There’s Daddy!’ My wife was at the thrift store the other day and bought a track suit and our 2-year-old was like, ‘I’m Daddy, I’m Daddy.’
“When I’m home I try to make up for the time. And I will my whole life when I’m done here. They’re the stars.”
He’s not quite done here yet, though. He has one more chance for Olympic glory, one more chance to be a star himself.
Niccum and partner Jayson Terdiman compete in doubles luge Wednesday. If they are faster than the other U.S. team of Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall, they’ll also take part in the team relay on Thursday, an event new to the Winter Games.
“I just want to give it everything that I have,” Niccum said. “I want to try every bag of tricks, try to bring it all together, all that I’ve put into this sport, this dream.”
He’s put a whole lot of his life into luge. Lately, however, he hasn’t enjoyed great success. He won World Cup gold three times in the late 1990s but hasn’t been on the medal podium since 2010. At the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, he was 23rd in men’s singles. At Vancouver in 2010, he finished sixth in doubles with Dan Joye.
The dream hasn’t faded, though. Especially since this is surely the last hurrah. Niccum is finishing up his degree in business from DeVry University.
Between training runs, workouts and Skype calls the past six weeks he has carved out time to study. Well, a bit of time. He admits he has fallen behind. But, hey, talk about the world’s greatest excuse: a stray dog in Sochi ate my homework.
He already has a job lined up with Aflac. He has completed his training with the supplemental insurance company and is licensed to sell.
But first things first. He’ll be on the ice of the Sanki Sliding Center Wednesday morning (competition begins at 5:15 a.m. PST). Niccum and Terdiman hope they have saved the best for last.
Their best finish this year in any international event has been ninth. “In the four years we’ve been together, our worst finish before this year was eighth,” Terdiman, 25, said.
“So we’re working hard to put it all together,” Niccum said. “Whatever the result for Jayson and I, I hope we can say it’s the best we can do.”
Then it will be time for Niccum to say farewell luge, hello loved ones. “One thing I’m looking forward to is just being done and getting home to my family.”
Oklobzija writes for the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y.