Minnesota athletes competing in the Rio Games are making history, even as they are living in the present. But as years pass, their stories will collect dust and start to fade away. Local author Patrick Mader, though, has made it his mission to make sure that doesn't happen. His recent book, "Minnesota Gold," chronicles 57 local athletes with deep Olympics ties. He chatted about it with the Star Tribune's Michael Rand.
QWhat made you interested in the subject of Minnesota Olympians in the first place?
A I've always been a Minnesota sports fan, all sports and levels. I was an elementary school teacher, and one of the classes I taught on occasion was Minnesota history. I love traveling, and I wanted to find a way to bring those passions together. I did research to figure out if anyone else had done a book like this, and when nobody else had, I pursued it. I was very fortunate because the athletes were so approachable — even welcoming. I didn't have any bad experiences.
Q Are you still a teacher?
AI retired midway through the project. I worked on it for two years during my summers, and I was maybe a quarter of the way done. Then I retired and worked on it for about two more years full-time. … I taught at a school between Mankato and Faribault called Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.
QDid anyone stand out as either a hero or someone you were particularly interested in?
AThe four most prominent people I interviewed were [Wendell] Anderson, the former governor, Lindsay Whalen, John Mayasich and Tom Malchow. Maybe Briana Scurry should be thrown in there, too. But honestly, everybody impressed me. They just had good balance in their lives and they were intelligent people. There certainly were conversations that lived with me more because of adversity they overcame, and I still review those conversations in my head. One of them was Amanda Smock, a triple jumper from Melrose [and 2012 Olympian]. … She tried in 2004 and got 17th in the trials. She tried in 2008 and got fifth in the trials. And after the trials that year, her dad took his hand and more or less erased 2008 on his credentials and put 2012 on it, encouraging her to keep competing four more years. About a year later, he got cancer and died from it. But she kept those credentials with her every day. That was a pretty memorable conversation.
QHow has the book been received, especially with the Olympics ongoing?
AI've had a lot of speaking engagements. Since April 1, I've had more than 70. That's been really good. But sales have only been fair.
QSo when is the sequel coming out?
AWell, my wife — who has been a real supporter — said that I can do it after I pay back the loan and get new windows. … In the end, it was essentially self-published. The cost of photographs was expensive. We used high-grade paper. It gets costly when it's a 400-page book.
QI'm guessing that even with those circumstances, something like this is still worth it in a lot of senses?
AI have no regrets about it. I really believe these stories are worth preserving, and nobody else had done it.