USA Best-ever U.S.A. Squad Headed to the Winter Olympics
American cross-country skiing fans will be focused on a possible best-ever Olympic result at the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February. Not to sound jingoistic, but many feel this will be a powerful team, especially the U.S. women.
As with last season’s Lahti competition, the U.S. Olympic selection will be based upon World Cup and Supertour performances. The U.S. plans to fill every start position for Pyeongchang.
The US National Team held their first camp of the season on-snow in Bend, Ore., and by all reports, the skiing was wonderful. After that, another very successful on-snow camp at the Snow Farm in New Zealand was held for three weeks in late summer. Both camps are favourites with the National Team. In the fall, they had their annual Park City camp.
Members of the team have been around the globe at events this summer. Liz Stephen and Andy Newell both competed at the Blink Festival in Norway. Stephen joined Kikkan Randall and coach Matt Whitcomb in Valadalen, Sweden for a camp with the Swedish National Team in August. Alaska Pacific University athletes had a fine summer, recently completing their third camp on the Eagle Glacier.
This season, the US Team squads look like this: Simi Hamilton and Newell will comprise the A Team, while Sadie Bjornsen, Sophie Caldwell, Jessie Diggins, Ida Sargent, Randall and Stephen will make up the women’s A Team; Rosie Brennan, alongside men Erik Bjornsen, Patrick Caldwell and Scott Patterson have been named to the B Team; and the development team, the D Team, will be made up of Ian Torchia and women Hannah Halvorsen, Julia Kern and Katharine Ogden.
Head USST Coach Chris Grover feels positively sanguine about what might loom ahead in a matter of months, and with good reason. “The U.S.A. will bring the strongest cross-country team to Pyeongchang that we have fielded in four decades,” Grover said recently. “The team has a proven track record of winning from the last three World Championships, including a record three medals in Lahti. The women’s team is the strongest U.S.A. squad ever. Right now, U.S. athletes are working extremely hard to be in the very best fitness possible this coming February, with their eyes on further rewriting U.S.A. cross-country-skiing Olympic history.”
Vermonter Newell is poised for what he hopes will be a strong season, recently saying, “Personally, I am optimistic about the coming season, and have been putting in the hard work as always.
As a recently married man, I have a new outlook on life, and I think that has helped me put things in perspective as I prepare for my fourth Olympic Games. I have always enjoyed showing the other nations that U.S. skiers can be the best Classic skiers in the world, and I’m excited for the opportunity to do that in Pyeongchang.”
Caldwell reported that her off-season training was good, noting that “My goal for the summer was to try and stay in one place as much as possible with the exception of our USST camps. I’ll skip the Park City camp [although she was in New Zealand] in an attempt to avoid being at altitude for too long.” She’ll continue in training mode in Vermont for a couple of months before the season begins, training at Stratton.
Just prior to his trip to New Zealand, Hamilton said that after eight years of training and racing full-time, he is still highly motivated. “Of course, there’s extra stress that comes with this being an Olympic year, but I think if you can compartmentalize that stress, you can use it to stay hungry and inspired throughout the whole training year and the World Cup season leading up to the Games. I hope I can contribute to our collective success in the last season or two before I hang up my race skis,” the Aspen native noted. Hamilton enjoyed some top results last season, and should be on top of his game for the Pyeongchang Games.
U.S. star and Minnesota native Diggins, who trains with the SMS T2 program in Vermont, said she hasn’t really changed her training from past seasons. “I’m training the same way I have for the last few years, just slowly increasing my focus, training hours and the quality of those hours as I get older and better at training. I am really pleased with how my summer training progressed.” And who could argue with her past results; they are simply sensational.
The Americans turned in some tantalizing results at the Snow Farm in Wanaka, New Zealand. Hamilton took top honours in the Merino Muster, which is part of the Worldloppet series, while American Brian Gregg took second. Diggins took the women’s event title, with former U.S. biathlon star Hannah Dreissigacker finishing second, while third went to Britta Clark, who skied at Maine’s Bates College.
The U.S. Olympic squad will do their final preparation before the Games in Seefeld, Austria, immediately before traveling to South Korea. Seefeld is a great area and is the site of the last World Cup before the Games. It’s a comfortable place the American athletes know well.
Coach Grover and his capable staff have brought a badly needed long-term period of stability to the National program, and all can be proud for their collective accomplishments. He is looking forward to the upcoming Olympic Games. “You know,” he said not long ago, “we had a great time in [South] Korea for the Test events, and we really enjoyed the trip and experience there. I’m expecting something truly inspirational at the Games.”