Wednesday, May 29th, 2024 Church Directory
SOCHI OLYMPIC PARK. Pictured at the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia are Lynnette Tewalt, Barry Hohlen, Jill Pouliot, Greg Hohlen and Bev Martin.

Becker Man Watches His Nephew Go For The Gold In Sochi

The Olympic Games have come and gone. I've often thought over the years how fun it would be to attend the Olympics. Obviously, it hasn't happened yet. One Becker resident, Greg Hohlen, recently crossed it off his bucket list. Greg's nephew, Paul Martin (an Elk River native), played men's hockey for Team USA in Sochi.

Paul is a defenseman for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Prior to that, he played for the New Jersey Devils and University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Paul invited his uncle Greg and his siblings along with this NHL entourage to Sochi. Paul was an alternate for the 2006 Olympic Games and also qualified in 2010 but was sidelined by a broken arm. Despite an injury this past fall, Paul was able to make this year's Olympic team and play in Sochi.
 
Greg and his siblings traveled with Paul and the NHL Players Association group from Newark, New Jersey for a nine hour flight to Sochi, Russia and were gone two weeks. Greg said Sochi was very beautiful. Part of their time was spent near the Black Sea with temperatures. The rest of their time while at the Olympic Games was up the mountain (a 40 minute trip). Greg told me the temperatures near the Black Sea were usually in the sixties. Some of the reading I did noted that Sochi is the warmest city ever to host a winter Olympics.
 
Greg was impressed by how friendly everyone was in Russia. Paul shared with his family that he formed many wonderful friendships while in Soshi. He went on to say: "The Russian people were very fun to be around and loved the Americans. They did their best to be welcoming. Olympic Park was very festive and many people dressed in costumes and celebrated their heritage. The food was interesting. One morning, we bought a freshly made pastry, only to find out it was filled with fresh fish!"
 
Greg and his siblings enjoyed watching Paul play the first four games, until he sustained a broken ring finger in game four against the Czechs.
 
Greg commented: "The competition was fierce and the skill level was unreal." Greg also told me the opposing teams displayed impressive sportsmanship even when their team lost.
When I asked Greg if they felt safe in Sochi he replied "Absolutely. There was security everywhere."
 
I did some of my own research about the Olympics and found there were varying opinions about whether emerging locations, such as Sochi, should be considered for future Olympics, or if they should be held at more traditional venues. This was the first time the Olympics were held in Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
 
Greg has been married for thirty two years to his high school sweetheart, Mary Alice. They have three children: Guthrie, McKenzie and Mitch. They live just north of Becker. Greg is SBA manager at Bremer Bank, St. Cloud. Mary Alice does Intake work for a Mental Health group of professionals.
 
It was fun visiting with Greg (my cousin) and Mary Alice. We reminisced about Greg's parents, Donny and Gerry, who were among Paul's biggest fans, and have both passed away.
 
Donny and Gerry and their family were more than just cousins to our family. My parents cherished their friendship with the Hohlens and we spent a lot of time together growing up.
 
With our busy farm life, our social circle usually included church functions and visits to relatives, which meant we got to visit the Hohlens in Elk River quite often.
 
When I told my mom about Donny and Gerry's grandson Paul playing in the Olympics, she said: "I know Donny and Gerry would have been so proud of their grandsons accomplishments." Greg had this to say of his Olympic experience with his siblings: "It was really wonderful to be able to spend with my brothers and sisters after the death of our mom just a few months ago. It was a really special time and a once in a lifetime experience."