Five from Juneau are ready for greatness

Posted: Sunday, November 26, 2006

Today the selection committee of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame will convene and discuss who should be in its inaugural class.

Sound off on the important issues at

The hall of fame is a terrific idea who's time is long past due. From the Iditarod to the scores of athletes who have won national championships and Olympic medals, Alaska boasts a unique sporting landscape.

Five people, two moments and one event will be inducted by an eight-person panel. Also, a public vote will count as a ninth panelist. On Monday, the inaugural class will be announced on the Alaska Sport Hall of Fame's Web site,

Though I've only been in Juneau for a little more than a year and a half, here are five local suggestions that I believe should receive recognition into this esteemed organization. Of course, this isn't the definitive list and I'm sure there are worthy athletes and events I've forgotten.

While these five may or may not make it, it's a good start.

1. Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament

For 60 years, Juneau's premier adult basketball tournament has stood for more than just a game. It's a cultural celebration, a family reunion and a competition all rolled into one.

While it may not receive the statewide or nationwide recognition of the Iditarod or the Great Alaska Shootout, Gold Medal remains Southeast Alaska's largest and most important athletic event. Teams from Angoon, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Kake and all points in between come to Juneau to meet with friends and represent their communities. The tournament has its own hall of fame and the legends of Gold Medal can quickly recall the ferry trips to Juneau and the important games and moments which make this tournament unique.

While the state and its landscape may change over time, it's a pretty sure bet that Gold Medal will always be part of Southeast Alaska.

2. Hilary Lindh

Arguably Juneau's most decorated athlete and one of Alaska's greatest skiers, Lindh got her start at Eaglecrest Ski Area.

Lindh's work ethic and talent led her to the top of her profession. She won the silver medal in the downhill at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Lindh was also the youngest American to win a World Junior Championships downhill title when she captured the event at age 16 in 1986. She later won the downhill World Championships in 1997.

Also, she won four U.S. Championships and three World Cup victories and captured a bronze in the 1996 World Championships. Lindh retired in 1997 as one of Alaska's and the nation's most decorated alpine racers.

She was inducted into the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame in 2005.

If there is any discussion about which skier belongs in the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, Lindh's name deserves to be among the first mentioned.

3. Carlos Boozer

Without out a doubt, Boozer is the best basketball player ever to play for Juneau-Douglas High School.

His name and exploits remain the standard for which all great Crimson Bears past, present and future will be judged by. Boozer won two state championships with JDHS before graduating in 1999. He went on to win a national championship with Duke, a bronze medal in the 1998 Summer Olympics and is currently enjoying a career year while leading the NBA's Utah Jazz to a league-best record of 12-2. All this, and he just turned 25 on Monday.

The best may still be ahead of Juneau's favorite power forward.

4. Joe Tompkins

Sometimes greatness isn't defined by medals and records, but by the impact an athlete can make on the lives of others.

Tompkins' life changed in 1998 when a drunken driving accident in Juneau rendered him paralyzed from the waist down. Since that accident, however, the Juneau-Douglas graduate transformed himself into a world-class athlete and inspirational figure. Tompkins learned how to ski and became a mono-skier. He is currently a member of the U.S. Disabled Men's Ski Team and represented his country in the 2002 and 2006 Paralympics. He's also won World Cup downhill and super-G races in his career. Most importantly, however, Tompkins used his story and athletic ability to try to help others.

He is currently a motivational speaker and has taught wounded U.S. soldiers how to ski and resume an active life. Tompkins also meets with children and adults, sharing his story and trying to prevent underage drinking.

5. Isabel Bush

I know plenty of Alaskans who've won gold medals, made millions of dollars as a professional athlete and reached the heights of their particular athletic profession.

However, I don't know any who are in the Guinness Book of World Records.

While Bush's maybe a longshot to reach any hall of fame, I believe her story and achievement ranks right there with any Olympian or pro ball player.

The 16-year-old Juneau-Douglas student set the world record for jumping rope in a 24-hour span on July 22 of last year. Bush jumped rope 151,036 times in 24 hours to break the old record by nearly 10,000 skips.

Sports isn't all about ESPN, big contracts and professional accolades. Sometimes it's about an individual's curiosity and determination to push his or herself past the limits of human endurance.

• Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at

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