Goaltending legend Vladislav Tretiak told me a story today. As a child, he happened to meet a local hockey hero. The man gave him a piece of gum, just a regular stick of chewing gum. He says he was in awe. He took a tiny piece of gum everyday, making it last for over a week. He was savouring the chance encounter that he says helped shape his hockey dreams.

Tretiak says that’s why he patiently smiles, signs autographs, poses for photos as we try to take a short walk in Sochi. If anyone is inspired to pursue their own dreams, he says, then, he feels he is giving back like that hockey hero he met fifty years ago.

Other athletes too, have shared their stories. Skier Marie-Michele Gagnon’s inspiration was an autographed poster of world champion Melanie Turgeon. She kept it posted on her bedroom wall, and as a ten year old, thought “she wrote my name, she knows me, she knows I am coming, and she is telling me I will have a good season, because that is what she wrote.”

And so, for the thousands of autographs, pictures and handshakes, perhaps, a little push to make it a little further.