Perfect 10: Team USA roster packed with Alaskans

When U.S. Ski & Snowboard recently announced its 20-person cross-country ski team to represent and race for America in the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 in South Korea, it also selected a team that would represent and race for Alaska. In one of the most exciting milestones in Alaska Nordic skiing’s already storied history, half of the skiers named to the 2018 U.S. Olympic Cross-Country Skiing Team were Alaskans and Alaska-based athletes. Many were raised here and learned to ski in Alaska, going as far back as Jr. Nordic programs with the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage and the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks. Others took their respective athletic leaps from good to great to Olympics through Alaska’s high schools, colleges, and training clubs and programs. Alaskans Olympics SprintFIS Cross Country World Cup - Davos, SwitzerlandPhoto © Reese Brown Kikkan Randall competes in a freestyle sprint heat at the FIS Cross Country World Cup in Davos, Switzerland, on December 9, 2017. She eventually finished third in the finals, adding another World Cup podium to her a racing resume. | PHOTO BY REESE BROWN The heart of the group is five-time Olympian and three-time World Championship medalist Kikkan Randall, who has been Alaska’s, and America’s, skiing sweetheart for more than 20 years. She’s joined by two-time Olympians, and siblings, Sadie Bjornsen and Erik Bjornsen. The rest of the group with Alaska roots are first-time Olympians – siblings Reese and Logan Hanneman; siblings Caitlin and Scott Patterson; Tyler Kornfield, Rosie Brennan and Rosie Frankowski. Alaskans Olympics Pattersons Siblings, and first-time Olympians, Scott and Caitlin Patterson at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska. | PHOTO BY JOSH NIVA Alaskans Olympics Bjornsens Siblings Sadie and Erik Bjornsen are ready for their second Winter Olympic Games. | PHOTO BY U.S. SKI & SNOWBOARD Perhaps it was meant to be. Many among the lineup made their final push for the team with breakout performances at January’s 2018 L.L.Bean U.S. National Cross-Country Skiing Championships at Kincaid Park in Anchorage. Shortly after the announcement, longtime Alaska skiing star Holly Brooks, who raced in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics and volunteered at the 2018 Nationals races, summed up the magical moment in a column for the Anchorage Daily News, writing, “Thanks to the vision of our strong Nordic skiing leadership and the strength and depth of our community, a state with a tiny population will be represented in a huge way at the Winter Olympics.” Even Alaska Governor Bill Walker tweeted his AK pride at the announcement, posting, “What a team! Congratulations to all!” Nine of the 10 skiers currently train and race for the Anchorage-based APU Nordic Ski Team. (Another APU skier who grew up in Alaska, Jessica Yeaton, will ski for Australia in the Olympics – she was born Down Under.) “I am extremely proud of our team – we committed to a big goal and worked really hard to get here,” said Erik Flora, APU program head coach, in an APU press release. “We are thankful for the support of our Alaskan community and will be proud to represent our country at the Olympic Games.” Even Flora is making the journey to PyeongChang – he’s part of the Team USA coaching group. Alaskans Olympics Celebrate From left, Jessica Yeaton, Caitlin Patterson and Rosie Frankowski discuss their 20K classic race in the 2018 L.L.Bean U.S. National Cross Country Ski Championships at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, AK. All three skiers have Alaska roots and will compete at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games – Patterson and Frankowski representing America, Yeaton skiing for Australia. | PHOTO BY MICHAEL DINNEEN PHOTOGRAPHY While this announcement is historic for Alaska, the whole team hopes to add a special chapter to America’s Nordic skiing story. The U.S. has only one cross-country skiing medal in the Winter Olympics – Bill Koch’s silver in 1976. This group, with its recent run individual and team success on the World Cup circuit, is primed to change that. “These USA Olympians have prepared extremely well for PyeongChang and are looking to rewrite U.S. cross-country skiing history,” Chris Grover, Team USA head coach, said in a U.S. Ski & Snowboard press release. “The U.S. Ski Team is headed to PyeongChang with one of the most talented and decorated Olympic teams of all time. Never in our history have we fielded a team with so many podium-proven World Cup and World Championship athletes. We also have incredible momentum in this Olympic season with 10 World Cup podiums secured by early January.” The U.S. roster also includes stars like Sophie Caldwell, Jessie Diggins, Anne Hart, Kaitlynn Miller, Ida Sargent and Liz Stephen on the women’s team; and Patrick Caldwell, Simi Hamilton, Noah Hoffman and Andy Newell on the men’s side. In PyeongChang, the 35-year-old Randall will become among the first U.S. women to compete at five Winter Olympics. She’s known for her ever-present smile, tenacity and penchant to rise to any racing occasion. The fifth Olympics will be another notable distinction in a career that has elevated her to Alaska’s – and arguably America’s – greatest Nordic skier of all time. “Five Olympics, wow! It’s such an incredible honor to be joining another U.S. Olympic Team,” Randall said in a press release. “I am especially excited about this team going into 2018 as the strongest cross-country contingent I’ve ever been a part of. We have the potential for some great individual performances from multiple members of the team and I know we’re all really looking forward to being contenders in the relay events.” Alaskans Olympics Tyler Kornfield celebrates his 30k classical win. Tyler Kornfield lets out a victorious yell after crossing the finish line to win the men’s 30K classic event in the 2018 L.L.Bean U.S. National Cross Country Ski Championships at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska. | PHOTO BY MICHAEL DINNEEN PHOTOGRAPHY Randall was born in Utah, but spent the majority of her life and career in Anchorage, which she still calls home. By the time she was skiing for Anchorage’s East High, she was already in the national Nordic spotlight and viewed as America’s next skiing star. The Hanneman brothers grew up in Fairbanks and learned to ski there. Both are Lathrop High School grads – Reese then skied for the University of Alaska Anchorage while Logan stayed home and skied for the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Kornfield grew up in Anchorage, skiing for Service High and the Alaska Winter Stars before joining Logan Hanneman in college skiing at UAF. Alaskans Olympics Reese Hanneman Reese Hanneman celebrated two sprint national titles during the week of racing at the 2018 L.L.Bean U.S. National Cross Country Ski Championships at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska. | PHOTO BY MICHAEL DINNEEN PHOTOGRAPHY Caitlin and Scott Patterson are originally from Idaho, but spent their high school years skiing in Anchorage, competing for South High and the Alaska Winter Stars. Both attended college in Vermont – Caitlin still lives there while Scott returned to Anchorage, where he still lives, works and trains. 2014 Olympians Erik Bjornsen and Sadie Bjornsen are originally from Washington, but have trained and competed with APU in Anchorage for many years, as have Olympic newcomers Brennan (originally from Park City, Utah) and Frankowski (originally from Minneapolis). And Yeaton, who will ski for Australia, moved to Anchorage from Perth when she was 12 and has lived there since. Learn more about Team USA and follow the Alaska-based skiers at the following links: Official US Ski & Snowboard U.S. Cross Country U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team Team USA. 2018 Winter Olympic Games cross-country skiing events (all times below are Alaska Standard Time) Friday, February 9 – Women’s Skiathlon, 10:15 p.m. Saturday, February 10 – Men’s Skiathlon, 9:15 p.m. Monday, February 12-Tuesday, February 13 – Men’s and Women’s Classic Sprint, qualification at 11:30 p.m. Monday; heats at 2 a.m. and finals at 3:25 a.m. Tuesday Wednesday, February 14 – Women’s 10K Freestyle, 9:30 p.m. Thursday, February 15 – Men’s 15K Freestyle, 9 p.m. Saturday, February 17 – Women’s 4x5k Relay, 12:30 a.m. Saturday, February 17 – Men’s 4x10k Relay, 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, February 20-Wednesday, February 21 – Men’s and Women’s Freestyle Team Sprint, qualification at 11 p.m. Tuesday; finals at 1 a.m. Wednesday Friday, February 23 – Men’s 50K Classic, 8 p.m. Saturday, February 24 – Women’s 30K Classic, 9:15 p.m. See the links below for more about the Olympics, see a viewing guide and learn how to watch: Olympics 2018 NBC Olympics Viewing Help Guide Article by  NORDIC SKIING ASSOCIATION OF ANCHORAGE / Josh Niva

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