the dark horse
Résumé: A World Cup podium finish with the American XC relay team and a pair of victories at the 2013 U.S. championships.
Women’s cross-country has been an Olympic sport for 62 years. For most of that time the stars and stripes have skied from the back of the pack. But tune in for the Sochi Games, and watch skiing instead of figure skating for once. This is the deepest, most talented team yet. Alaska’s Kikkan Randall, the 2013 World Cup champ is the undisputed leader, but Sadie Bjornsen plays a key role. She came out strong this winter with individual World Cup top tens in the 5K and 10K classic, plus a share of third place in the 4x5K team relay—a finish that matched a record best for the U.S. women. Bjornsen discovered cross-country growing up in the Nordic paradise of Washington’s Methow Valley. The adversity of a sport that serves up suffering with a smile drew her in, and at age 17 she skied in the Nordic Junior World Championships. After two years of collegiate skiing in Alaska and All-American honors, Bjornsen made the U.S. roster. Now, she trains with Randall to turn the tide of history. “Day after day, we go out and Kikkan says to me, ‘You have to finish 50th dozens of times. Then, one day, you’ll get better results,’” Bjornsen says. When, exactly, is that day? February 15, 2014. We predict precious metal in the 4x5K.
Watch For: Bjornsen to be a medal threat in Olympic individual events and the team relay. Must-watch TV for American fans. —Matt Muir | photograph by Sarah Brunson
From the Winter 2014 issue.