U.S. Olympians lead clinic with local Nordic skiers
Special to the Tribune
Imagine, if you will, playing basketball at your local gym, and in walks in Kobe, LeBron and Carmelo, who offer to shoot some hoops with you for a couple of hours. Or, you’re sitting in the clubhouse at your favorite course, and in walks in Tiger, Phil and Vijay (OK, maybe not Tiger), and ask if you’d like to fill their foursome.
That would be the scenario offered to a group of local Masters and Junior Nordic skiers from the Truckee/Tahoe area last week.
Thanks to the Cross Country Ski Areas Association Convention taking place, the area was visited by the three most celebrated Nordic skiers in the United States in the last 30 years.
U.S. Ski Team members Kris Freeman, Kikkan Randall and Andrew Newell have put the United States on the world competition map in the past few years, with the highest finishes by American skiers since the early ’80s, with Randall becoming the first U.S. woman to win a Nordic World Cup event in the country’s history (twice), and the first to medal (silver) at a World Championship. Newell has the only World Cup podium finish for the U.S. in the past 20 years, while Freeman is considered the United States’ best distance racer in a generation.
Through the sponsorship of Fischer Skis and Swix Sport, the three U.S. Ski Team members conducted a couple of clinics for both old and young at Northstar-at-Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area. Almost 40 local Masters and more than 50 local Juniors were treated to their infectious blend of technical expertise, unbelievable athletic skills and enthusiasm for the sport of cross country skiing.
After a morning spent with people from the Cross Country Ski Areas convention, Randall, Newell and Freeman regrouped to ski the trails at Northstar with local skiers. Perhaps the most telling aspect of the experience was noticing that there were no fewer than four former Olympians in the group taking the adult clinic, along with the former head of the Professional Ski Instructors of America Demonstration Team.
“What a great day and experience for everyone who had the opportunity to participate,” said Glenn Jobe, one of the former Olympians in the group.
Local Master racer June Lane agreed, adding, “Such an honor to ski today with the Olympians. They are truly ambassadors of the sport, and we all feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity.”
Following the Masters group clinics, the energy level went up exponentially as the Junior contingent, mostly middle school and high school age of all abilities, showed up to ski with the Olympians.
Afterward, a very short but thrilling relay race was held behind the Ritz-Carlton on the slopes at Northstar, pitting three teams of teens and adults, each with their own U.S. Ski Team member. The day finished off with a poster-signing for the kids, with the Olympians graciously handling the long line of young athletes eager to get the signature of their ski heroes.
The day ended as Savannah Blide, an eighth-grader at Alder Creek Middle School, remarked, “That was awesome, perhaps the coolest thing ever. Those posters are going on my wall of awesomeness!”