Big Crop Of Northwest Olympians Headed To Sochi Games
Athletes headed to the Winter Games from Oregon, Idaho and Washington run the gamut from Olympic rookies to medal-draped veterans.
When the U.S. Olympic Committee finalized its team roster on Monday, the list contained 20 names with ties to this region.
"I feel really comfortable with this team going into the Games," says Alpine Director Patrick Riml in a statement distributed by the U.S. Ski Team.
The youngest Olympian from the Northwest in 2014 is 21-year-old downhill skier Jacqueline Wiles of suburban Portland. The oldest from the region is Roberto Carcelen, a 43-year-old cross-country skier from Seattle who will compete for Peru. Carcelen is one of five additional Northwest athletes going to Sochi under banners other than the Stars and Stripes.
This year's crop of Northwest Olympians includes at least half a dozen legitimate medal contenders. Short track speedskater J.R. Celski already owns two Olympic bronze medals earned in Vancouver in 2010. He will duel for more valuable metal against stiff competition from Canada and South Korea.
Snowboarder Nate Holland, a North Idaho native, earned his seventh Winter X Games gold medal in snowboardcross this past Friday in Aspen. He’s expected to be a medal contender in Sochi in the chaotic event, which is frequently compared to a roller derby on snow. Snowboard halfpipe competitor Kaitlyn Farrington of Bellevue, Idaho has medal hopes in another event with a high dose of danger.
Both the U.S. men's and women's ice hockey teams look strong going into Sochi. That means Sun Valley's Hilary Knight and Everett, Wash., native T.J. Oshie are favored to come home with shiny disks.
Central Washington will be rooting for freestyle moguls skier Patrick Deneen to bring home a medal in 2014 after his chances of landing on the Olympic podium in 2010 were dashed by a crash. Several Canadian rivals stand in his way this year.
Here is your full list of 2014 Northwest Olympians:
Hilary Knight - women's hockey - Knight won a silver medal with the U.S. women's hockey team in the 2010 Winter Olympics. This Sun Valley, Idaho native and her teammates are gunning for gold in Sochi. Some consider the 23-year-old Knight the most physically imposing of all the Team USA skaters.
Kaitlyn Farrington - snowboard halfpipe - This Sun Valley snowboard team product muscled aside a pair of two-time Olympians to secure spot on stacked U.S. team. She won a bronze medal at the 2014 X Games in Aspen to tune up for Sochi. Farrington is "living her pipe dreams," per a snappy headline from the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation.
Erik Fisher - alpine skiing - "The Flying Fish" has been skiing since the age of three when his parents first set him loose at the Bogus Basin ski area above Boise. This is the second time Fisher has been named to the Olympic team. This speed skier from Middleton did not compete at the 2010 Winter Games due to an injury suffered shortly beforehand.
Sara Studebaker – biathlon – This 2010 Olympian from Boise has punched her ticket for a second Olympics in 2014. The 29-year-old Studebaker has been competing in the combination sport of cross country skiing and target shooting since 2003. A lot of her training takes place at Lake Placid, where the U.S. Biathlon team maintains a training base on the site of the 1980 Games.
Nate Holland - snowboardcross - Holland was born and raised in Sandpoint, Idaho. Getting picked for Sochi represents a three-peat for him, having previously competed in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics. He and his younger brother (also a pro snowboarder) operate a seasonal water sports business on Lake Pend d'Oreille in the summertime called Action Water Sports. Nate is one of the oldest competitors on the U.S. ski and snowboard team at the ripe age of 35.
Simi Hamilton - Nordic skiing - Hamilton is a Sun Valley ski team product now calling Aspen, Colo., home. Simi was a 2010 Olympian and a member of the SVSEF Gold Team from 2009-2013.
Jessika Jenson - snowboard slopestyle - Jenson lists the small city of Rigby, Idaho as her hometown. This Eastern Idaho gal is self-taught from the sounds of her U.S. Snowboarding profile. She was named to slopestyle team with a coaches' discretionary pick.
Nick Cunningham - bobsled - Cunningham is a 2008 graduate of Boise State University, where he starred on the track team. He now lists Monterey, Calif., as home. Cunningham pushed a 2-man sled at the 2010 Vancouver Games. This year, he has moved up to the driver position and will pilot both the four-man USA-2 sled, plus a two-man sled.
Sadie Bjornsen - Nordic skiing - This 24-year-old Methow Valley native is the older half of an Olympic duo with her younger brother, Erik. She's skiing full time on the World Cup racing circuit for first time this season. Bjornsen could potentially medal as part of a U.S. Nordic sprint relay team.
Erik Bjornsen - Nordic skiing - The younger half of the brother-sister Olympic duo from Mazama, Wash. Erik grew up skiing on the 200km Methow Valley Nordic trail system, which starts practically at the doorstep of his family home. Two former Olympic cross country skiers live on the same rural street and mentored the Bjornsen youngsters.
Brian Gregg - Nordic skiing - Brian was born and raised in the Methow Valley and his parents still live on a ranch there. Brian's wife Caitlin Compton Gregg was a 2010 Olympian. Both spent training time in Methow Valley during the past two years, but now call Minneapolis home where they recently bought a house.
Torin Koos – Nordic skiing – Back for another try, Sochi will be Torin's fourth Olympics. This cross country skier from Leavenworth, Wash., is at home in both sprint and distance races. His best finish at the Winter Olympics was a ninth place in the team sprint event at Vancouver in 2010.
Patrick Deneen - freestyle moguls skiing - The pride of Cle Elum, Wash., won the 2009 World Championship in moguls skiing and went to the 2010 Winter Olympics, where he finished in 19th place. In Sochi, he'll be the underdog against several highly touted Canadians.
Christian Niccum - doubles luge - Niccum, who calls Woodinville, Wash., home is now a three-time Olympian. He's the oldest member of the U.S. luge team this time around. Niccum finished 23rd in singles luge in Torino 2006 and sixth in doubles luge in Vancouver 2010. In Sochi, he will contest doubles luge with partner Jayson Terdiman.
J.R. Celski - short track speedskating - This Federal Way, Wash., native came home from the 2010 Vancouver Games with two bronze medals. Celski took a full season off after Vancouver, collaborating with Macklemore and others for a film project, and then came back faster than ever. In October 2012, he became the first man to break the 40-second barrier in the 500m. He is tabbed as the U.S.'s best hope for a short-track medal in Sochi.
Holly Brooks - Nordic skiing - Brooks grew up in Seattle and learned to ski at Snoqualmie Pass. The 31-year-old is now living in Anchorage. Brooks was a late addition to Olympic team in 2010. This year, the U.S. Ski Team veteran secured her spot early on thanks to her World Cup results.
Angeli VanLaanen - freeskiing halfpipe - VanLaanen landed on the podium at the first and last Olympic qualifiers to make the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. This 28-year-old Bellingham, Wash., native overcame Lyme disease and a nearly three year hiatus for treatment to achieve her dream of going to the Olympics. Her event, ski halfpipe, makes its Olympic debut in Sochi.
T.J. Oshie - men's hockey - When he's not skating for Team USA, this 27-year-old forward wears the uniform of the NHL St. Louis Blues. Oshie was born in Mount Vernon, Wash., and then raised in Snohomish County. Oshie got his start in hockey with the Seattle Junior Hockey Association. The Herald reports his family moved from Everett to Stanwood when he was in the eighth grade. He attended Stanwood High School the following year. "He then moved to Warroad, Minn., where he lived with extended family for his last three years of high school as he developed into an elite young player," the Herald sportswriter related.
Jacqueline Wiles - alpine skiing - This hard-charging, 21-year-old U.S. ski team rookie made a successful bid for the 2014 U.S. Olympic team. Downhill is the strongest event of this suburban Portland resident. One of her favorite ways to stay in shape in the off-season is by bicycling.
Laurenne Ross - alpine skiing - This 25-year-old U.S. Ski Team veteran is a proud alumnus of the Mt. Bachelor ski team. The Bend, Ore., resident pursues many eclectic interests outside of skiing including music (she plays 3-4 instruments), photography, rock climbing and art. Ross has been having a difficult 2013-14 season on the World Cup racing circuit.
Northwest winter athletes competing for other nations:
Kent Callister - snowboard halfpipe - Callister is a dual national from Bend, Ore. who qualified for Sochi on the Australian halfpipe snowboard team. Last year, Callister was invited to join both the US Snowboard rookie team and the Australian national team. He chose the Aussies, correctly gauging that his chances to go to Sochi were higher there than with Team USA.
Roberto Carcelen - Nordic skiing - Carcelen was a Peruvian citizen when he moved to Seattle for love in 2003 and then was introduced to cross country skiing. In 2010, Carcelen became the first ever athlete from Peru to compete at the Winter Olympics. Carcelen plans to compete in Sochi against a doctor's advice. The married father of one broke a rib and cracked several more in a ski crash during training in Austria in mid-January.
Jasmine Campbell - slalom and giant slalom skiing - Campbell will be the one and only Olympian representing the U.S. Virgin Islands. She actually calls Hailey, Idaho home and is a product of the Sun Valley ski team. Her dad, John Campbell, skied in the 1972 Olympics for the Virgin Islands, which is where Jasmine was born. Jasmine is on leave from Whitman College, where she is double majoring in philosophy and psychology.
Amy Sheehan - ski halfpipe - Sheehan recently moved to Wenatchee, Wash., to join her fiancée, who sells real estate there - that is, when he's not coaching his beloved. Sheehan grew up in Australia and New Zealand and will ski for the Australian Olympic Team.
Vic Wild - snowboard parallel slalom - This White Salmon, Wash., native learned to ski and snowboard at Mount Hood Meadows. He now competes for host country Russia after marrying a Russian snowboarder in 2011. Wild groused about lack of support from the U.S. team for competitors in his event during a recent Russian TV broadcast.