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South Forsyth graduate helping at Winter Olympics
South Forsyth High School graduate Mike Diersen, right, stands with fellow crewmembers Brandon Klement, left, and David Hanson at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. - photo by For the FCN

A South Forsyth High School graduate is showing his skills at the Winter Olympics, though he won’t be competing with anyone.

Mike Diersen, a 2001 SFHS graduate, is in Pyeongchang, South Korea for the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, where he is keeping ice clean and smooth for competitors as part of the crew for the games. 

Through email, Diersen said he found out in late 2016 a friend was going to the Olympics to run a hockey facility. Diersen said he told his friend he “would love the opportunity” and found out last summer he had been selected. 

“I was one of eight drivers from North America and three drivers from Japan chosen to go work the 2018 Winter Olympics,” Diersen said in an email. “This opportunity is amazing. I am getting the chance to learn from the best in the business. There are seven NHL drivers here. I am one of two that work for municipal owned ice arenas.”

Working with international crews, Diersen said, had been both exciting and challenging. 

“The best part so far has been the guys I work alongside with,” he said. “Everyone is willing to help, give advice, and work together. The Korean people have been amazing to work with too. The communication has been a learning curve but we are working it out every day.”

Diersen said it was “amazing” to be at the Olympics, which he said was the “best sporting event in the world.” 

He added that he still couldn’t believe he was a part of it.

He said he has had the opportunity to watch some of the world’s best hockey players.

“The hockey has been awesome to watch,” Diersen said.” I have seen men and women play now and, wow, they are some of the best-skilled players out there.”

Diersen said he played ice and roller hockey while attending SFHS but has since relocated to Park City, Utah, where he works as head of operations for the Park City Ice Arena. Diersen credits his love of soccer for taking him all over the country and, now, world.

“I moved to Utah because of the outdoor lifestyle,” he said. “I love the winter so I try to do it all. Hockey has been a big part of my life and I owe a lot of what I have to the sport. When I moved to Utah, I played for The Park City Pioneers which was a men elite team that traveled around the west playing teams from Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, California, Nevada and New York.”

Hockey even helped Diersen get his job.

Diersen said he was attending the rink three or four times a week to play hockey when his predecessor asked if he wanted a job. He said he started off sharpening skates three days a week for three months before being promoted to rink operator, which involved making ice and driving an ice resurfacer. 

During that time, he worked full-time as a carpenter, until the economic downturn.

“In 2008, when the housing market fell, I was offered a full-time position as the building maintenance coordinator. I did that for about six years, and I left the industry to start a business in custom woodworking,” Diersen said. “I did that for one year, and then Park City came and asked me again to come work full time as the head of operations. I accepted and now I am at the Olympics. You never know what life has in store for you.”

Diersen said he is making the most of his opportunity and will stay for the 2018 Winter Paralympics, held March 9-18. He said he hopes to see more of the country in the time between the Winter Olympics’ closing ceremony on Sunday and the Winter Paralympics.

“I haven’t been able to get out much yet but the area I am staying is really nice.  I am on the coast of the Sea of Japan in the town of Gangneung, Korea,” he said. “The coastline reminds me a lot of the coast of California. I hope that I can explore a little more once the Olympic Games are done and before I start the Paralympics.”