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U.S. Olympic Nordic Team Stacked With Northwest Skiers

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
U.S. Nordic Olympic team member Erik Bjornsen of Mazama, Wash. demonstrated a finishing lunge for a Methow Valley youngster in December.

It's looking more and more like Northwest athletes will be unusually well represented at the Winter Olympics in Russia next month. The U.S. Olympic Nordic team was named Wednesday.

Half of the 14 selected cross country skiers have Northwest ties.

A brother-sister cross country ski duo from Washington's Methow Valley will get their wish to go to the Olympics together. Sadie and Erik Bjornsen were both named to the U.S. Nordic team along with two others from their area: Winthrop-born and raised Brian Gregg and Olympic veteran Torin Koos of Leavenworth.

Erik Bjornsen foresees an end to an Olympic medal drought for U.S. cross country skiers that stretches back to 1976.

"I think there's a really good chance we'll come out with a medal this year," he says. "The women are skiing really strong right now. So... I'd put money on it."

The north-central Washington skiers will be joined on the 2014 Olympic team by Seattle-born and raised cross country skier Holly Brooks, who now lives in Anchorage, and two alumni of the Sun Valley Olympic development team, Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman. They both now call Aspen, Colo., home.

U.S. Olympic Team head cross country ski coach Chris Grover also has Northwest ties. According to the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, Grover coached there in the mid-1990s before leaving for Mount Bachelor in central Oregon. Grover returned to Sun Valley from 2004-06 to be SVSEF's first Olympic development team coach.

The 2014 U.S. Olympic Team will feature at least seven sibling pairs across all disciplines, counting Erik and Sadie Bjornsen.

"I am really looking forward to competing in my first Olympic Games, but even more special, enjoying this new experience with my brother," wrote Sadie in an email from Europe. "We have both been working really hard and dreaming about the Olympic Games since we were young children, so to accomplish this goal at the same time is very rewarding!"

Other Sochi-bound American siblings include the aptly named snowboarders Arielle and Taylor Gold of Colorado and ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani of Michigan.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.