No Hakkinen, Teela on Olympic biathlon team

bbragg@adn.comJanuary 13, 2014 

For the first time in 20 years, there will be a Winter Olympics with no Alaska men on the U.S. biathlon team.

Jay Hakkinen's quest to become a five-time Olympian ended this week with the naming of the U.S. Olympic biathlon team.

Hakkinen, the Kasilof man who competed in the last four Olympics, on many occasions as the leader of Team USA, was not a member of the 10-person team selected Sunday by U.S. Biathlon.

Neither was Anchorage's Jeremy Teela, who was seeking a fourth Olympic berth.

Alaska will nonetheless have a presence on the team -- Sara Studebaker, 29, is from Boise, Idaho, but trains in Anchorage. Studebaker was among 10 athletes named to the team.

Long the stalwarts of the national team, Hakkinen, 36, and Teela, 37, for years set the standard for U.S. biathlon, paving the way for athletes who will head to Sochi, Russia, with legitimate medal hopes.

Beginning with Hakkinen's world junior championship in 1997 and continuing through Teela's World Cup bronze medal in 2009 -- the first World Cup medal for a U.S. biathlete since 1992 -- the pair made the U.S. team relevant on the national stage.

In 2006, Hakkinen's 10th-place finish in the 20-kilometer race in Turin, Italy, marked the best Olympic finish in biathlon history for the United States.

In 2010, Teela did that one better by placing ninth in the 10-kilometer sprint at the Vancouver Olympics.

Next month in Sochi, athletes like Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey are expected to contend for the country's first Olympic medal in the sport. Once young guns who looked up to Hakkinen and Teela and tried to match their success, Burke and Bailey have taken the torch and run with it on inroads forged by the Alaskans.

Hakkinen and Teela began the season with a shot at continuing their Olympic run.

U.S. Biathlon fielded a small national team for the 2013-14, with Hakkinen and Teela the only men on the B team. Four men, including New Yorkers Burke and Bailey, were named to the A team.

When the Olympic team was announced Sunday, Burke, Bailey, Russell Currier of Maine, Sean Doherty of New Hampshire and Leif Nordgren of Minnesota were selected for the men. On the women's team are Studebaker, Lanny Barnes of Colorado, Annelies Cook of New York and Susan Dunklee and Hannah Dreissigacker of Vermont. Burke, Bailey and Barnes will be making their third Olympic appearances.

Studebaker splits her time between Anchorage, Boise and the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid. She has been an instructor for the NANA Nordic, a program that takes cross country skiing into Alaska villages.

Alaska has long had a presence in international biathlon. For years, the national team was dominated by military members who trained at Fort Richardson, many of whom went on to become big contributors to Alaska's skiing community, a group led by but not limited to Anchorage's Dick Mize. Last weekend, Kincaid Park was the scene of a biathlon race featuring 70 national guardsmen from 10 states.

So far four Alaskans, all women, have secured Olympic berths -- cross country skiers Kikkan Randall, Holly Brooks and Sadie Bjornsen and curler Jessica Schultz.

Studebaker's selection to the biathlon team and Ashley Wagner's controversial selection to the figure skating team gives Alaska a share of a two more Olympians. Wagner grew up in Eagle River, became a competitive skater here and skated for the Anchorage Figure Skating Club when she won the 2005 junior ladies title at the Pacific Coast sectionals before her military family left the state.

A couple of more nordic skiers could make the team, and Girdwood snowboarder Callan Chythlook-Sifsof this weekend will continue her bid to earn a second Olympic berth.

Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.


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