ARGENTA – Ice sculptor Aaric Kendall will be wearing Olympic gold around his neck when he returns home today.
Kendall and his teammate, Benjamin Rand of Jupiter, Fla., were awarded the gold medal Sunday in the ice sculpting competition at the Cultural Olympiad that is part of the Vancouver Games.
"I was a little shocked," Kendall said. "I thought it could have gone either direction."
Teams from Japan received the silver and bronze medals. Kendall and Rand earned a score of 177.9 out of a possible 200 to win the gold medal.
The 13 competing teams carved three blocks of ice into a sculpture in a 12-hour period Saturday. Team captains then returned Sunday to complete a one-block sculpture in two hours. The scores on each sculpture are combined for an overall score.
The theme of the competition was "Hopes and Dreams." Kendall's team carved a woman leaping over a starburst representing the spark of a dream and holding a dove of hope in her hands.
The warmer weather in Vancouver caused challenges for the ice sculptors, but Kendall said he and Rand had a plan to compensate for the 50-degree weather Saturday.
They put their ice pieces in ice boxes to keep them at optimal temperature as long as possible.
"The sculpture was not as clean and polished as we had hoped for," he said, but the other teams were dealing with the same conditions.
Kendall, 31, earned a bronze medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics. He said this year the intricate design and meticulous preparation made the difference.
"We put a lot of time into practicing the design and had a plan in place," he said.
The winners were announced in between periods of the hockey game Sunday evening, and Kendall celebrated with his wife, Becky, his son Wyatt and several other family members who made the trip.
"It was fun, but I'm glad it's all finished," he said.
A homecoming celebration is being planned for Kendall's 9:30 p.m. arrival at Willard Airport.
A fire truck escort will take him to the Argenta Community Building, where he will be greeted by residents and supporters.
Kendall said he is grateful for the support of the community and many others in central Illinois.
"A lot of people helped us and raised funds to get us there," he said, and that gave him the opportunity to concentrate on his artwork and bring home the gold.