For Colorado’s Olympians, Aurora shooting hits close to home

Games were the last thing on Honduran Olympic soccer player Roger Espinoza's mind when he heard about Friday's Colorado movie theater shooting. Espinoza worried that his 13-year-old sister Nicole, who frequents the theater, may have been in attendance. He immediately contacted his parents, found out his little sister was safe, and breathed a sigh of relief.

The 25-year-old, Honduras-born athlete lives in Aurora, Colorado, and plays midfield for the MLS club Sporting Kansas City. He was prepping for the Games in Paris when an international friend told him about the tragedy.

"I grew up just five minutes away from there and that is the movie theatre I used to go to when I was young," said Espinoza.

He doesn't think any of his friends were in the theater but has yet to see a list of the victims to confirm.

[ Related: Waldo Canyon fire threatens Pat Forde's Colorado Springs home ]

Fellow Olympian and Aurora-native Missy Franklin found out about the attack in a text from her mother while at a training camp in central France. The 17-year old Team USA swimmer attends Aurora's Regis Jesuit High school, lives 15-20 minutes away from the theater, and drives past it on the way to practice.

"I was very, very shaken up," she told Reuters. "It was terrifying for me because I had no idea who was there."

Franklin spent the day contacting her Colorado friends to make sure they were alright. Her coach Todd Schmitz is keeping a close eye on her emotional state, as she prepares for this her first Olympics.

Other Olympic athletes who are from or connected to Colorado include Colorado Buffaloes graduate Emma Coburn (3000 meter steeplechase), David Herman of Denver (BMX), Taylor Phinney and Timmy Duggan of Boulder (cycling), Shalane Flanagan from Boulder (marathon), and Taylor Ritzel of Aurora (rowing).

The Olympic Games often go hand in hand with tragedy—Hitler's 1936 Berlin Games, the 1996 Atlanta bombing, the 1972 Munich terrorist attack, and now a senseless rampage in Colorado. But the Olympics can also offer a glimmer of hope—giving us a reason to cheer, unite, and celebrate our common love of sport. Colorado, the U.S., and the world can proudly look to these athletes and the Olympic torch they follow to provide some light in the wake of such darkness.

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