With all the excitement surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics, I can’t help but remember my own short-lived dreams to become a Winter Olympian. It was back in 2001, and I was a fifteen-year-old Nordic skier, racing at a high-school competition in the Methow Valley. I was feeling pretty cocky, and I was confident (in a way that only teenagers are) that I had raced fast enough for a podium finish. I strutted up to the results board, only to be served a large slice of humble pie. First, the fastest skier in the high-school race was only twelve years old. Second, this 5th grade upstart didn’t win by a few seconds, she beat all the teenagers by a significant margin! Ladies and gentlemen, meet Sadie Bjornsen. She’s been triumphing over older, bigger, more-experienced skiers since elementary school, and her talent has carried her all the way to the 2014 Olympics.
Sadie Bjornsen, 24, is a blonde, blue-eyed cross-country skier from Winthrop, WA, and she’s been training and racing on local ski trails for the past two decades. “The Methow Valley has a large amount of talent that has come from it, and I know that will only continue,” Bjornsen writes on her blog. “With some of the best skiing in the world, and many enthusiastic athletes, it’s hard to not grow up loving the sport.”
Her enthusiasm has served her well: She was a national champion in high school, an All-American in college, and for the past three years, has been racing for Team USA on the international stage. In a sport dominated by Swedes and Norwegians, Sadie has held her own among her elite competitors. Her stellar 2013-2014 racing season garnered enough World Cup points to merit a Top-25 World ranking, which guaranteed her a plane ticket to Sochi. And an Olympic medal could now be within reach: at last year’s World Championships, she helped the U.S. women’s 4x5k relay to a record 4th-place finish.
Sadie won’t be the only Washingtonian in Team USA gear: in fact, five of the fourteen Nordic Olympians grew up on Washington’s ski trails. Sadie’s little brother, Erik, has also been making waves in the international racing scene. At only 21-years-old, Erik is already a national champion, an All-American, and the youngest member of the 2013 World Championship Team. The Bjornsen siblings are joined by fellow Winthrop skier, Brian Gregg, on his first Olympic team. Holly Brooks, before making her second Olympic team, raced for Snoqualmie’s Junior Ski Team. Finally, veteran Torin Koos, a native of Leavenworth, WA, will be competing in his fourth Olympics.
So when the American athletes march across the stadium during the Opening Ceremonies, keep your eyes peeled for some familiar local faces. “I can’t even wait to see what it will feel like to walk into my first opening ceremonies, compete in the Olympic suit, hear our National Anthem when a medal is won; the whole thing!!”, writes Bjornsen. “I have been dreaming about making the Olympics since I was a young girl, so it is so awesome to have it finally come true.”
The cross-country skiing Olympic competition will begin Feb. 8, the day after the Opening Ceremony. Follow Sadie Bjornsen’s journey on her blog: www.sadiebjornsen.blogspot.com.
Article by Jamie Redman