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Where are they today?

A glimpse into the lives of LDS Winter Olympians

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Marvin Melville's path to three Olympics didn't start with visions of glory. He and his dad simply wandered one day into a Salt Lake City surplus store when he was a boy, bought some army-issue skis and headed for the mountains.

But talent, a bit of self-described luck and adherence to gospel principles served him well on the slopes. Marvin Melville would go on to ski in two Winter Olympics and coach in a third. Along the way he witnessed the development of another young skier named Jean Saubert and, later, helped introduce her to the Church.

Today, Brother Melville and Sister Saubert are members of a small cadre of Church members who have competed in the Winter Olympics. Nostalgia will likely pay each a visit during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The Church News spoke to a quartet of LDS winter sports athletes about their experiences with the Games and the gospel.

Corey Engen

The name Engen is synonymous with skiing in Utah.

Corey Engen was the youngest of the celebrated Engen Brother trifecta. He followed his brothers Alf and Sverre to Utah from their native Norway when he was just 17, packing his love and talent for skiing along for the journey.

Soon Corey and his brothers were recognized for their exploits at Utah ski locales. Alf won numerous national ski jumping championships, but a photo appearance on a Wheaties cereal box reportedly kept him from competing in the Olympics at a time when the Games were strictly amateur competitions.

Instead, it was Corey who would represent the family in the Olympics competing in Nordic combined (a discipline that includes ski jumping and cross country racing) at the 1948 Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Brother Engen, now 85, found himself in third place following the jumping segment of the competition before eventually finishing 21st.

"There were too many good skiers," Brother Engen said modestly, chuckling at the memory.

He would enjoy a decorated ski career, earning 22 gold medals in the U.S. Open and Masters competitions and induction into the National Ski Hall of Fame.

Brother Engen's wife, Norma, introduced the ski champ to the Church.

"She was the one who got me baptized in 1952," he said.

The Engens, who now live in Lindon, Utah, spent much of their married life in McCall, Idaho, where he was instrumental in developing and teaching skiing in the area. Seven of his students made U.S. Olympic ski teams.

Today they're members of the Lindon 1st Ward of the Lindon Utah West Stake.

Brother Engen still skis. He's excited to watch Nordic ski events during the 2002 Winter Games.

"I only wish I was 50 or 60 years younger."

Barbara Day Lockhart

The Women's speedskating champions today ought to look with respect — and gratitude — to Barbara Day Lockhart, the first woman on the first U.S. speedskating team in the history of the Winter Games.

Those "firsts" are literal. Then a high school senior in Chicago, Ill., she won the first race in the first Olympic trials for women speedskaters in 1959. She competed in the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif., and in 1964 in Innsbruck, Austria.

That was nearly four decades ago. But as Sister Lockhart, Edgemont 5th Ward, Provo Utah Edgemont South Stake, said, "Once an Olympian, always an Olympian."

"The Olympic experience and involvement has never quit," said Sister Lockhart, who teaches physical education at BYU. "It has just been a part of my whole life, which I never expected." When she learned that Salt Lake was making the bid, she signed up for the speakers bureau and went around trying to encourage people to get behind the Games.

She is chairwoman of the 2002 Winter Games ethics committee. She will also carry the torch Feb. 5 in Provo, Utah. Her life has taken a course she could not foresee while growing up in Chicago in the 1950s. The daughter of two athletes, Robert and Elizabeth Day Lockhart, young Barbara was natural talent, whether on the field, on a skating rink or a basketball court. When she was 8 years old, her father bought her a pair of speed skates. It seems she's been skating ever since. "I'd get up at 4:30 or 5 in the morning, and I'd go up to our local outdoor rink. They'd just flood the field with a fire hose. I'd skate up there all by myself. At night, my father would let me practice with the [local speedskating] club for 45 minutes."

The practice paid off. She eventually competed with the best in the world. During the 1960 Games, however, a lack of proper coaching led her to over-train. She became ill and finished far below her potential. In 1964 she had what she calls her "peak" experience in the 3,000-meter race.

"It's hard to draw an analogy. It's as if you just go into another stage. Today, you call it the zone. I remember colors. I remember seeing beads of water on the ice. Your perception is just magnified. I was skating faster than I ever had in my life, but it felt effortless. I was breaking the Olympic record and the world record. This went on for five minutes."

Then — in the world's thinking — tragedy struck. She fell on the last lap.

"It was funny because reporters came running up after and they said, 'Are you just devastated?' Are you kidding me? I just had the high of my life," Sister Lockhart recalled thinking to herself. "All they could think of was this gold medal."

She doesn't have that gold medal to show nearly four decades later. But it doesn't seem to matter to her. Just speaking of that "peak" moment, her eyes light up in memory. "Everything to me is with the gospel perspective. What's really important to me is to be able to be with Heavenly Father and the Savior forever. That's where my heart is." (Please see Feb. 26, 1994, Church News for article about Sister Lockhart, who joined the Church in 1963, and a Russian friend with whom she shared the gospel.)

Her heart is never far from the Olympics, either. "I can't think of anything in the whole world that's a greater cultural event than the Olympics. When you bring all those people from all the countries in the world and all the sports together, there's a dynamic there, an excitement that you can't compare to anything else. It really is the thrill of a lifetime to be part of that."

Marvin Melville

Marvin Melville remembers ski racing for the first time when he was around 10 and living in the Salt Lake area.

The sport was his diversion. Something fun to do. He admits he never gave much thought as a youngster on skis to one day racing with the world's best in front of a global audience. Instruction in the 1940s and early 1950s was typically limited to on-the-slope-training.

"In those days you just did the best you could . . . training came from the racing," said Brother Melville, a lifelong Church member. "I didn't actually have a coach until I was in college."

Still he progressed through the amateur ski ranks, qualifying for national competitions and, eventually, the Olympics in skiing's glamour event, the downhill. He would represent the U.S. in the 1956 Winter Games at Cortina, Italy, and four years later on home turf at Squaw Valley, Calif.

While today's world class skiers can become rich on endorsements and prize money, Brother Melville never made a dime racing. When the the ski seasons ended he earned a few dollars working construction, graduated from the University of Utah and served a stint in the Army. After retiring from international ski racing, Brother Melville wanted to give something back to the sport; he opened a ski school in Utah for young racers. He later coached the University of Utah's ski team and helped coach the U.S. ski team at the 1964 Winter Games.

Brother Melville points to gospel principles as lifelong, valuable training partners. Staying away from alcohol and cigarettes was never difficult for the athlete.

"They were principles taught early — and it was never an issue," he said.

Brother Melville, 66, and his wife of 43 years, Renee, now spend much of their time "skiing with a bunch of grandkids." He plans on running a few steps as a 2002 Olympic torch runner and hopes to see an event or two of the Games, "but it's easier to watch them on television."

He serves as the clerk of the Sun Valley Ward, Carey Idaho Stake.

Jean Saubert

Jean Saubert may have a couple of Olympic medals, but insists she was never a "natural."

As a child "I lost lots of races — I was third all the time because there were usually only three of us [competing]," Sister Saubert said, laughing.

The Oregon native was a quick study. A schooled technical skier, young Jean won the junior nationals when she was 14. She knew she belonged on the Olympic stage after watching international skiers she had beaten competing in the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley.

She was the United States' dominant female slalom skier by the time she qualified for a spot on the 1964 U.S. national ski team at the age of 21. Although she had little experience on European ski runs, she went into the 1964 Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria, as a medal favorite.

"She was the best in the world in the slalom," recalled Marvin Melville, one of the team coaches.

She has mixed feelings about her Olympic performances. Despite finishing sixth in the opening round of the women's slalom, she made up time in the second and final round to claim the Olympic bronze medal.

"The truth is I was disappointed in my bronze medal because I didn't ski my best," Sister Saubert said.

She went into the women's giant slalom with lower expectations, only to return to the winner's podium to receive the silver medal.

Sister Saubert had a couple of LDS acquaintances growing up in Oregon. She later met Brother Melville and lived with his parents when she moved to Salt Lake City to train with his athletes at the University of Utah after the 1964 Games. She had studied a number of religions and remembers asking the Melvilles questions about the Church. She agreed to listen to the missionary discussions and was baptized. Her friend and coach, Marvin Melville, performed the ordinance.

The Church remains an integral element of her life. A retired elementary school teacher, Sister Saubert has been a member of the Young Women's MIA athletic board and now serves as an ordinance worker at the Salt Lake Temple. She's excited to make an Olympic return — this time as a volunteer at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

"I will always love the Olympics."


E-mail: jswensen@desnews.com