Olympic hopeful picks up new ride

It's not often that you wake up in the morning to find that you've been given a brand new car.

But that's just what happened to Hood River resident and U.S. Olympic Team hopeful Anton Pogue when he awoke Tuesday morning to a knock at his door.

The bleary-eyed snowboarder was greeted by Randy Deskin, general manager of Cliff Smith Motors, who surprised him with the news that he was being awarded a white 2001 Chevrolet Silverado pickup.

Pogue was wary at first, despite the presence of television and newspaper media, and asked who was behind the joke. Eventually, though, it sunk in that there was no funny business.

"What did I do to deserve this?" he asked. "This is great -- it's the fanciest thing I've ever had!"

Pogue was selected to receive the car -- along with 39 other Olympic hopefuls across the counÿtry -- as part of Chevrolet's Team Behind the Team promotion. The program is designed to relieve some of the financial burdens Olympic training can cause athÿletes and their families. Athletes are selected based on financial need, training and competition requirements, and qualification as an U.S. Olympic Team hopeful.

The advisory panel that selectÿed the lucky winners was comÿprised of some of America's greatÿest Olympians, including co-chairs Kristi Yamaguchi and Eveÿlyn Ashford, Bonnie Blair, Peggy Fleming, Dan Jansen and Phil Mahre.

Pogue, 33, is one of the counÿtry's most successful snowboardÿers, finishing third in the slalom at this year's world chamÿpionships. He has also won the U.S. title three times and is a gold medalist on the World Cup cirÿcuit.

Pogue wasn't dwelling on his accomplishments Tuesday mornÿing. He was too busy climbing in and out of the new vehicle, tuning the CD player to his favorite radio station, and stretching out in the pickup bed to assess its capacity. The Chevrolet replaces the rickeÿty van that Pogue had relied on for transportation, despite its troubles on the steep commute to Mt. Hood.

After his initial surprise wore off, Pogue posed with Deskin for some publicity photos. In one of them, Deskin was asked to toss the keys to Pogue. It proved diffiÿcult, however -- Pogue repeatedly dropped the keys as they were pitched to him, claiming "the sun was in my eyes."

"I'm a trained athlete, but I can't catch a set of keys!" he laughed.

Maybe the time he saves drivÿing to the mountain will allow Pogue a chance to work on his manual dexterity.

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