Tahoe athletes claim Olympic berths, off to Beijing
On Feb. 4, athletes from Truckee and North Tahoe will walk into Beijing’s National stadium for the 2022 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony.
From skiers who grew up on the shores of Lake Tahoe to those who spent time in the area as youngsters, the region will be well represented when the Olympic flame is ignited.
HALVORSEN, SCHOONMAKER LEAD NORDIC CHARGE
Tahoe City’s JC Schoonmaker has spent four seasons training with the Sugar Bowl Ski Team while also attending the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Earlier this year he was named to the A Team of the U.S. Ski Team’s Nordic squad following a breakout season of World Cup racing in 2021, and will now make his debut as an Olympic athlete.
Knight Lab Story Map created by Digital Engagement Editor Samantha Sullivan
Schoonmaker, 21, has piled up two top-10 finishes in World Cup racing, and earlier this month won his first national title at Soldier Hallow, Utah.
“I’m so stoked to make the Olympic Team. It’s a crazy feeling to actually achieve a long-time dream like this,” said Schoonmaker. “Making the transition to Sugar Bowl Ski Team and Academy was huge for me. I feel like each of the past four years I’ve been on the team, I’ve been able to take a huge step forward in my skiing, all thanks to the coaches I get to work with every day. They make the hard work fun and really know what I need to be doing to go fast on the highest of levels. I couldn’t do any of it without them.”
Fellow Sugar Bowl teammate, Hannah Halvorsen, will also make her Olympic debut next week.
The 23 year old has made a comeback after a career-threatening incident in 2019, when she was struck by a car while crossing a street in Anchorage. She spent five days in a hospital, suffering from a fractured skull, bleeding and bruising in her brain, a tibia fracture, and a left MCL and PCL that were torn completely and detached from the bone. It would be roughly 11 months before the Truckee skier returned to the snow and in 2021 managed to pick up her first career World Cup points. In December she finished a career-best seventh place at a World Cup sprint event in Dresden, Germany, which sealed her place on the U.S. team.
“I was very fortunate to be able to attend Sugar Bowl Academy for high school,” said Halvorsen. “It was here that I was given the tools, support, and opportunities to commit to big goals. It helped me start on a path that has given me an amazing ski racing career. I couldn’t be more grateful for the early support of my teachers, coaches, and parents when I first started to believe that I had what it took to make the Olympics someday, because they were the first ones to believe in me, even before I did myself.”
SUGAR BOWL BOASTS RECORD 8 OLYMPIANS
Sugar Bowl Ski Team & Academy will have a record eight Olympic athletes competing next month.
Aside from Halvorsen and Schoonmaker, the team will be represented by six alpine skiers from across the globe.
Luke Winters, 24, will make his Olympic debut following a standout season of World Cup racing that’s included 10th- and 11th-place finishes in slalom events in Switzerland and Austria.
“It feels great to be named to such a small team of Alpine athletes this year,” said Winters. “The Olympics are another step in my career, but I can’t help but think back to all the work and time it has taken to get here. (Sugar Bowl Ski Team & Academy) played an integral part in my growth as a person and an athlete. Meeting lifelong friends, being a part of such an amazing community, and giving me the opportunity to ski at a high level are all things that helped shape me and get me to this point. I’m excited to represent all the teams, academies, coaches, friends, family, and the USA at the Olympics and compete for a medal.”
Sugar Bowl will also have a pair of Australian skiers competing on the slopes in China.
Louis Muhlen-Schulte, 23, grew up in Australia before attending Sugar Bowl Academy. He now competes at Montana State University, and was second earlier this month in giant slalom at the Austrian national championships.
“With great time management and hard work, I have managed to juggle a full-time college load and race the NCAA series, Nor-Am, the occasional ANC, and even a World Cup start,” said Muhlen Schulte.
Also from Australia and a Sugar Bowl alumna is Katie Parker, 23. Parker graduated from Sugar Bowl in 2017 and competes for the University of Utah, where she’s earned All-American honors in giant slalom at the 2020 NCAA Championships. Recently, she finished first place at a collegiate slalom race in Montana.
Sugar Bowl alumna from New Zealand, Alice Robinson, will make her second Olympic appearance. She was New Zealand’s youngest ever winter Olympian in 2018, and finished 35th in giant slalom.
She spent two years at Sugar Bowl, and earlier this month posted a pair of top-10 finishes on the World Cup scene.
Michel Macedo, 23, is originally from Brazil and was raised in Portland, Oregon. Growing up, he skied Mount Hood before heading to Sugar Bowl Academy for his final two years of high school. Macedo, who graduated in 2017, is currently a junior at Middlebury College in Vermont. This will be his second Winter Olympics.
Truckee’s Maureen Lebel, 23, grew up in a family of skiers. As a teen, Lebel was named to the U.S. Ski Team’s National Training Group, and in 2018 she competed in all disciplines — slalom to downhill — at the World Junior Championships. She also won the national downhill title and finished third overall in the North American Cup downhill standings.
Lebel later enrolled at the University of Utah, but injuries kept her sidelined through much of the season.
“I’m refueled to work hard in everything I do while still focusing on enjoying the process,” she said.
In October, as Lebel was training for her first World Cup at Lake Louise, Canada, her father, Jay, died in a car wreck, delaying her debut.
She later made her World Cup debut at a downhill event earlier this month, dedicating her performance to her father.
“My goal is to one day leave the sport of ski racing feeling 110% fulfilled, knowing that I have worked as hard as I possibly could in every situation both on and off the hill,” said Lebel.
TEAM PALISADES TAHOE SENDS 5 TO OLYMPICS
Team Palisades Tahoe will have four skiers at the Olympics, including veteran Travis Ganong, who will make his second Olympic appearance.
Ganong, 33, has posted four top-10 finishes in World Cup racing this season. Last week he took 11th and seventh in downhill events in Kitzbuhel, Austria.
“About to take off on a grand adventure to China for the 2022 Winter Olympics,” Ganong posted to his Instagram account. “I’m feeling privileged to have the opportunity to represent (Team USA) for my second games. I have to thank the countless people who have helped me along the way to get to this point. I couldn’t have done this without your support.”
Ganong competed in the 2014 Olympics in Russia, but was sidelined in 2018 after suffering a torn ACL during a World Cup event in Bormio, Italy.
Also making a second Olympic appearance will be Truckee’s Bryce Bennett. The 6-foot-7-inch downhiller has had a career year on the World Cup scene, claiming his first career win in downhill last month.
Last weekend, Bennett was 11th and 12th in World Cup downhill racing in Kitzbuhel, Austria.
“I’m proud and honored for another opportunity to represent the ol’ US of A at the Olympics,” said Bennett in a social media post. “Whatever happens, happens, but I’ll be doing my best to represent.”
Bennett competed in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, where he took 16th place in downhill and was 17th in combined.
North Tahoe’s AJ Hurt, 21, has also been nominated to her first Olympic team. The Team Palisades Tahoe skier’s season, thus far, has been highlighted by a 20th place in giant slalom at a World Cup event in Austria.
Team Palisades Tahoe will also be represented on the slopes by Keely Cashman, 22. The Strawberry, California, skier — who already owns national and junior championships — will make her Olympic debut. Cashman recently took 28th at a super-G World Cup race in Italy.
Another Team Palisades Tahoe representative, Nina O’Brien, 24, will also be making her Olympic debut.
O’Brien opened the World Cup season with a ninth-place finish in giant slalom, and after some struggles in races at the end of December and beginning of January, has bounced back to post back-to-back top-25 finishes in slalom. On Tuesday, O’Brien added to her World Cup points, finishing 15th in giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy.
ANDERSON, WISE LOOK FOR 3-PEAT
In other disciplines, Reno’s two-time gold medalist in men’s freeski halfpipe, David Wise, is slated to return to completion for a third Olympics. He finished third in super pipe at last week’s X Games.
South Tahoe’s Jamie Anderson will also look for a third straight Olympic gold when she competes in women’s sllopestyle. Anderson, 31, recently claimed a pair of second-place finishes in big air and slopestyle at the X Games
“At 31, to still be pushing myself and my level of riding is actually insane,” she said. “I’m real proud of myself and excited to see what else I can pull together before I hang up the bib!”
Another athlete with ties to the area, Joanne Reid, has been named to the U.S. biathlon team.
Reid was raised in the Bay Area but trained regularly at ASC Training Center and Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort. She competed in the 2018 games and finished 87th in sprint, 22nd in individual, 15th in mixed relay, and 13th in relay.
Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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