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High school notes: Beaver River’s Sundberg builds Olympic tribute

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BEAVER FALLS — While preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games are being finalized in Sochi, Russia, a much-smaller, less-permanent version of an Olympic site is being built by one ambitious man in Beaver Falls.

Beaver River volleyball coach Gene Sundberg is piling, shaping and sculpting snow in his front yard to form a winter Olympic scene. He says he’s hoping to complete the project by Wednesday.

Sundberg’s Olympic site features a 12-feet high ski jump, which runs parallel to his street. Behind the jump is the Olympic caldron on four pedestal posts.

The backdrop features the three Olympic flag poles, all at different heights. Off to one side he’s planning an Olympic awards platform.

Sundberg works alone as his family doesn’t share his enthusiasm.

“This is kind of my therapy,” Sundberg said. “I’m always a worry wart, and my team at times has had some struggles this year and then with the weather and not practicing, it gives me something to keep my mind off volleyball a little bit.”

Sundberg’s family includes his wife, Colleen, and sons Nicholas, a sophomore at The Crane School of Music in Potsdam, and Matthew, a senior at Beaver River.

“(Nick) helped me the first day or two pile up a little bit of snow, then he was off to greener and bigger and better pastures,” Sundberg said. “My younger son just looks at me and shakes his head and says I’m completely nuts, and I think my wife is probably on the same page that he is.”

Sundberg said he doesn’t go bowling or hunting, so this is a healthy way to stay active during the winter.

“In the long run it’s good for me, too, just because it gives me another outlet and another venue other than just park in front of the TV and fall asleep every night,” Sundberg said.

Sundberg said his technique is unlike that of Jefferson Community College art professor emeritus Klaus Ebeling, who is an award-winning snow sculptor. Ebeling carves his work out of a large block of snow.

“I’m not really that talented, so I start with almost nothing and just build up with slush and snow and ice and gradually build it up and sculpt it while it’s still soft,” Sundberg said. “If you make a mistake you just mix more slush and start again. Or if you take too much out or something breaks off, you just rebuild it again. For me it’s been a good challenge.”

Sundberg molds slushy snow around half-inch PVC pipes to build the flag poles. He doesn’t plan to fly flags because he thinks there’ll be too much resistance when the wind blows.

This will be Sundberg’s third snow sculpture at his home in Beaver Falls but his 14th overall. He grew up in Winthrop, near where the Tri-Town Winter Carnival is held in Brasher Falls. He was involved with building his first snow sculpture during junior high school and continued into college.

Sundberg is a sixth-grade social studies teacher and has tried to stick to historical themes. Three years ago he constructed a pyramid and sphinx. The next year there wasn’t enough snowfall, and last year he built a Roman temple.

If the current cold-weather trend is interrupted, Sundberg’s hours of labor will be in vain. He’s been monitoring the 10-day weather forecast, which indicates the temperatures will remain below freezing for the next several days.

The Olympic Games are scheduled for Feb. 7-23.

LEAGUE TOURNAMENT SATURDAY

The Frontier League volleyball tournament is scheduled for Saturday at Case Middle School.

The “B” Division is set to play at 11 a.m., followed by the “C” Division around 1 p.m. and the “A” Division at approximately 3 p.m.



Sportswriter Leslie Sheldon covers Frontier League sports for the Times. She may be reached at lsheldon@wdt.net

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