By Mike Maltais
The local community of cross country skiers is all abuzz about the latest news from Sochi central: World Cup superstar Sadie Bjornsen has been selected as a member of the U.S. Olympic Cross Country Ski Team that will compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, next month.
“I also am so happy to now know I have officially made the Olympic Team,” Bjornsen posted recently on sadiebjornsen.blogspot.com. “The first criterion is to be top 50 on the overall World Cup standings, and I finished 25th in the distance standings.”
Bjornsen has turned in an outstanding performance this season at a time when it counted most in her favor.
“Sadie finished in the top 10 in every World Cup [event] in the period,” said Sadie’s mother, Mary, earlier this week.
In December 2011, Bjornsen paired up with Alaska Pacific University cross country teammate Kikkan Randall to win the United States’ first ever XC World Cup medal — a silver — in competition in Germany.
Bjornsen is the first athlete from the valley to qualify for the Olympics since Laura McCabe was selected for the team at the 1998 Winter Olympics at Nagano, Japan, when she was living and coaching in the Methow.
It was the second time for McCabe, who also made the 1994 team at Lillehammer, Norway.
Leslie Hall, program director and coach for the Methow Valley Nordic Team (MVNT), is a three-time Olympian, having made the team in 1988, 1992 and 1994.
With the official announcement due as early as next week for the selection of remaining team members, several athletes with valley connections are hoping to be among those named.
One, of course, is Sadie’s brother Erik, who won the 15-kilometer classic for the second straight year at the U.S. National Championships held in Soldier Hollow, Utah, earlier this month.
The Super Tour super star couple of Brian and Caitlin Gregg are also pushing hard to make the U.S. team.
“Casey Smith just missed making the biathlon Olympic Team, where they named five men and five women recently,” said Hall.
The top 50 men or women in distance or sprint on the World Cup circuit qualify to be the first group nominated to the Olympic team, according MVNT spokeswoman Pat Leigh.
“For racers on the U.S. domestic circuit, making the Olympic squad is not as straightforward,” Leigh said. “After the World Cup-ranked skiers are identified, the next nominations are discretionary selections, made by the U.S. head coach, of individuals whose results indicate a potential for Olympic success.”
“The U.S. quota of 16 cross country skiers for the Olympics was announced on Sept. 1, 2013, and could be increased to as many as 20 (no more than 12 of one sex),” Leigh added. “However, the United States won’t necessarily fill their quota. They didn’t fill it in 2010.”