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Austria

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Annie O’Shea jets down the World Championship track. Photo from the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation

She traveled thousands of miles to the same cold, unforgiving mountains in Europe, Canada and the United States. Small mistakes on ice tracks around the world had robbed her of precious tenths and even hundredths of a second. Not this year though, and not for this new Annie O’Shea.

Annie O’Shea goofs around with friends Kendall Wesenberg, Matt Antoine and Nathan Crumpton. Photo from Annie O’Shea
Annie O’Shea goofs around with friends Kendall Wesenberg, Matt Antoine and Nathan Crumpton. Photo from Annie O’Shea

The Port Jefferson Station native and standout track and field graduate from Comsewogue High School, where her mother Linda works in the district office, spent a dozen years training, racing and demanding more every year in the high speed sport of skeleton racing to get to where she is now.

This year, on the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation World Cup circuit, O’Shea finally turned tears of anguish into tears of jubilation — finishing no worse than sixth in each of her last six competitions and, in the process, winning precious medals.

“I’ve had some good races here and decent races there in the past, but I’ve never been able to do it more than once or keep the momentum going,” O’Shea said. The positive energy that helped her generate a breakthrough season has created a “great feeling” for O’Shea.

Her run started on her home track of Lake Placid, site of the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympics, where she often felt pressure to do well. In the second week of January, she sprinted past a cacophony of cowbells and encouraging shouts from a supportive crowd for about five seconds, dove headfirst on her sled and earned her first World Cup gold medal. Her performance easily surpassed her ninth-place finish on the same track a year earlier.

Annie O’Shea competes at the World Championship in Igls, Austria. Photo from the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation
Annie O’Shea competes at the World Championship in Igls, Austria. Photo from the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation

From there, it was off to Park City, where she came in fourth, narrowly missing a medal. Undeterred, O’Shea trekked to Whistler, Canada where she collected the second silver medal of her career. She won her first silver World Cup medal four years earlier in La Plagne, France.

O’Shea ended the season in fourth place overall, a mere seven points away from third. She also finished the World Championship race in Igls, Austria, which includes four different heats, in fifth place, a personal best.

“It’s been many, many, many years coming,” O’Shea said. “This is worlds different from how last year ended. I feel like a different person in a really good way.”

She attributes much of her successful season to developments that started last summer, when she started working with a life coach.

Brett Willmott, her conditioning coach and the associate Head Track and Field Coach at the University of Vermont, said O’Shea took important steps last summer not just mentally, but physically as well.

“When she finished the season last year, she was beaten up a little bit,” he said. “Things didn’t go the way she wanted. She had a foot-down moment” where she addressed her challenges head on. By June, the “workouts were going better than they were before.”

Annie O’Shea, second from right, poses for a photo with fellow athletes and friends. Photo from Annie O’Shea
Annie O’Shea, second from right, poses for a photo with fellow athletes and friends. Photo from Annie O’Shea

During the season, she also bought into head coach Tuffy Latour’s philosophy of believing in the process. She has also bonded with a close-knit group of teammates, including rookie Kendall Wesenberg and men’s sliders Matt Antoine and Nathan Crumpton.

“She did all the right things and put everything together at the right time,” said Latour. “I push on all the athletes to believe in one step at a time and to minimize their distractions.”

Latour said athletes are sometimes their own worst enemies, especially when they are so focused on results that they forget about all the little adjustments they need to make to succeed.

Latour suggested that O’Shea has turned a corner, and become a “real team leader.”

O’Shea said she’s stopped paying attention to the clock and concentrated on staying in the moment.

“I focus on what’s right in front of me and not what’s behind me or four corners ahead, because I didn’t get there yet,” she said.

O’Shea’s mother recalls all the times she took her daughter to practices for Empire State games. In the last dozen years, she and her husband John made the six-hour trek up to Lake Placid to watch their daughter live as she flew by overhead on the track. When O’Shea competes in Europe, her mom gets up at 3:30 in the morning to watch her.

“When she’s finished with a race, I can always tell whether she’s happy or not,” Linda O’Shea said. The time she spent supporting her daughter is time she “wouldn’t give back for anything.”

The 28-year old skeleton racer said she knows her family is always watchimg her and appreciates their support, particularly during the years when everything didn’t come together the way it did this year.

“My mom and dad and sisters all reminded me of how proud of they are of me,” O’Shea said. Hearing how happy they are with her success this year “makes me feel like [the medals are] not just for me. It’s for all of us.”

A murder mystery thousands of years old and a continent away is coming to Long Island, where middle school and high school students can look at a rare face from human history.

During the ice age, an arrow went through a man’s shoulder blade, nicked an artery that leaves the aorta and caused him to bleed to death. Some time after he died, weather conditions effectively freeze dried him, preserving him in a remarkably pristine state until German hikers found his five-foot, five-inch body protruding from a melting glacier in 1991. He was found in the Ötztal Alps (on the border between Austria and Italy) — hence the name Ötzi.

David Micklos, executive director of the DNA Learning Center, stands next to the only authorized replica of Ötzi outside of the South Tyrol Museum in Italy. Photo by Daniel Dunaief
Dave Micklos, executive director of the DNA Learning Center, stands next to the only authorized replica of Ötzi outside of the South Tyrol Museum in Italy. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

While Ötzi, as he is now called, remains preserved carefully in a special facility in Italy, a master craftsman and artist has created a painstaking replica of a 45-year-old man killed at over 10,000 feet that is now on display at the DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

“Kids are fascinated by it,” said Dave Micklos, the executive director of the DNA Learning Center, who has shared the newest mummified celebrity with students for several weeks in advance of the official exhibit opening in the middle of February. “The story is quite fascinating: it’s an ancient murder mystery. We take it from the forensic slant: what is the biological evidence we can see on Ötzi’s body that tells us who he was and how he died.”

Ötzi, or the Iceman as he is also known, has become the subject of extensive investigation by scientists around the world, who have explored everything from the over 60 tattoos on his body, to the copper axe found next to him, to the contents of his stomach and intestines, which have helped tell the story about the last day of Ötzi’s life.

“It’s a story that’s been assembled, bit by bit,” Micklos said. “Each scientific investigation adds new twists to the story.”

The Learning Center came up with the idea to create a replica and proposed it to the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, Italy. Eventually, the museum granted the center the rights to use the CT scans, which provide detailed anatomical features. Ultimately, artist and paleo-sculptor Gary Staab used the images and studied the Iceman himself.

Staab, who has recreated copies of extinct animals for museums around the world, used a three-dimensional printer and sculpting and painting techniques to create an exact replica of a man who probably didn’t know he was in immediate danger when he was hit, because he seemed to be taking a break, Micklos said. Staab built one layer at a time of a resin-based prototype, then worked on the skin through sculpting, molding and painting.

A close-up of Ötzi the Iceman mummy’s replica at the DNA Learning Center. Photo by Daniel Dunaief
A close-up of Ötzi the Iceman mummy’s replica at the DNA Learning Center. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

Nova produced a television feature called “Nova’s Iceman Reborn” on PBS that captures the process of combining art and science to make a replica of the rare and highly valued fossil, which viewers can stream online through the link http://www.pbs.org/nova.

Long Islanders can see the replica at the Learning Center, where they can ask a host of questions about a man born during the copper age — hence the copper axe — and about 2,500 years before Rome was founded. Visitors interested in seeing Ötzi need to purchase tickets, which cost $10, ahead of time through the Learning Center’s website at www.dnalc.org.

Ötzi’s entire genetic sequence is available online. The Learning Center is the first science center worldwide to focus on DNA and genetics.

The center is especially interested in helping students understand what DNA says about human evolution. In one experiment, students can compare their own DNA to Ötzi, a Neanderthal and another ancient hominid group, called the Denisovans. Students can see how similar modern DNA is to Ötzi and how different it is from the Neanderthals and Denisovans. The 5,200 year differences with Ötzi is “no time in DNA time,” Micklos said.

Ötzi’s genes reveal that he had atherosclerosis and the deposition of plaques on the inner walls of the arteries. Ötzi was a healthy, active, relatively long-lived man in the Paleolithic era, who ate a diet of natural, unprocessed foods, and yet he had heart disease. His heart condition came as a surprise to scientists.

A 3-D resin model of Ötzi’s head before being painted. Photo by Daniel Dunaief
A 3-D resin model of Ötzi’s head before being painted. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

In addition to his genes, Ötzi’s body left clues about his life, where he’d spent his last day and what he’d eaten. Scientists have explored the contents of each part of his digestive tract, which, remarkably, remained well preserved during those thousands of years.

Ötzi had eaten different kinds of ibex meat, which is a goat found in the mountains. The pollen that was in his system, which came from the air he inhaled and from the food he ate, were pieces of a puzzle that showed where he’d been. The pollen near the top of his digestive track came from coniferous trees, including relatives of spruces and pines, which came from higher altitudes. Stored deeper in his system was pollen from deciduous trees, like birch and hazel, which grew lower in the valleys.

In addition to the Ötzi replica, the Learning Center also has reproductions of the clothes he was wearing and the artifacts he was carrying, which included a couple of containers of birch bark sewn together with fibers.

The Learning Center is developing a program to help students from the age of 10 to 18 explore Ötzi, so students can ask what the artifacts tell them about neolithic time.

Micklos said students have shown a strong interest in this old replica.

“It’s a little bit morbid, but not too much, and it’s a little gruesome, but not too much,” he said. “Everybody loves a mummy,” he continued, citing the popularity of the mummy exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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By Bob Lipinski

“A waltz and a glass of wine invite an encore.”
— Johann Strauss, 1804–1849

Although archeological evidence dates wine making and grape growing in Austria back thousands of years, its wines have always been overshadowed by those of Germany. Austria’s four major grape-growing regions are Burgenland, Niederösterreich, Vienna and Styria — each producing dry red and white wines, as well as semisweet and sweet whites, and even some very fine sparkling wines.

The major grape varieties are (whites) Grüner Veltliner, Müller-Thurgau, Welschriesling, Riesling and Weissburgunder (pinot blanc). Red grape varieties include Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and Blauer Portugieser.

At a recent press event, I had the opportunity to taste the wines of Stadlmann, a winery that dates back to 1780, located in Thermenregion, Lower Austria. My tasting notes follow:

2014 Gruner Veltliner: A dry white wine with a spicy, fruity aroma with a flavor of green apples, citrus and grapefruit.

2014 Zierfandler: A dry white wine with a fruity aroma of oranges and peaches, with hints of citrus, honey and spices.

2014 Rotgipfler “Anninger”: A dry white wine with a subtle aroma of apples and pears; light-bodied with a fruit flavor of apricots and peaches.

2013 Rotgipfler “Tagelsteiner”: A dry white wine with an intense aroma of apricots and melon. Flavors of mint, green olive and pears abound.

2013 Pinot Noir Classic: Crimson-colored with a distinctive bouquet and taste of blueberry, cranberry and wild cherries. Dry and soft in the mouth with flavors of cola, dried fruits, plums and spices.

While Austria produces many cheeses, most, unfortunately are not imported. I have three cheeses below, which can be found (not in a supermarket) in cheese shops that will easily pair with any of the above wines. Before serving the cheese, allow it to sit for 30 minutes to one hour at room temperature, which will soften the texture, release the aromas and maximize the flavor.

Mondseer: A soft, disk-shaped, cow’s milk cheese with a yellow-tan exterior and yellow interior with few irregular holes. It has a very pungent and robust flavor, and, when sold in small wooden boxes, it is known as Mondseer Schachtelkäse. It was first made in Salzburg in 1830 and named after the monastery of Mondsee.

Saint Michael: A wheel-shaped, cow’s milk cheese with a brown rind and no internal holes. It is smooth-textured with a pleasant, but mild flavor.

Tiroler Graukäse: A most unusual cow’s milk cheese made from sour-milk curds that are washed with Penicillium mold during the ripening period. Square-shaped with a gray exterior and a very strong, pungent odor and very sharp, piquant, tangy, sour taste. Graukäse translated means “gray cheese.”

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written nine books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com or boblipinski2009@hotmail.com.