Biographies of Alaska's Olympians

bbragg@adn.comFebruary 6, 2014 

Courtesy of Team USARyan Stassel is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.

COURTESY OF TEAM USA — Long Photography, Inc.

HOLLY BROOKS, cross-country skiing

31 years old

Olympic history

2010 Vancouver -- 11th, 4x5-K relay; 35th, 30-K; 38th, sprint; 41st, 10-K; 55th, 7.5/7.5-K pursuit.

Early impression: The first time Brooks appeared in the Daily News, she was a West High coach trying to keep kids interested and active despite poor training conditions in 2004. She sent them on a scavenger hunt to homes around Kincaid Park.

"You can't tell a team of 75 to go out on a two-hour run. This way they get a workout without even knowing it," she said.

Fun facts: Married to Service High grad Rob Whitney, former Alaska high school Skimeister. She coached APU nordic skiers before becoming a member of its elite team. Has a cat named Buggz. Despite a broken wrist, she skied the 2012 Tour de Ski, a grueling series of seven races in nine days.

Career highlights

2012, bronze medal, World Cup 4x5-K relay

2012, fifth place, World Cup 10-K freestyle

2012, Mount Marathon champion

RYAN STASSEL, slopestyle snowboarding

21 years old

Olympic rookie

Early impression: We first met Stassel when he was 10, taking on a 17-year-old twice his size in the finals of an April 2003 boardercross race in Girdwood. He was a few yards from winning when the older, experienced rider whooshed past him.

"I was like 'What the ... !?' Man, I thought I had him," Stassel said.

Fun facts: Fishes commercially on the Kenai in the summer -- and takes a trampoline with him to stay in shape. Started snowboarding at Hilltop. Graduated from Service High. Got into slopestyle long before it was an Olympic sport.

Career highlights:

Three-time U.S. Revolution Tour champion

2014, gold medal, U.S. Grand Prix

2014, bronze medal, U.S. Grand Prix

KIKKAN RANDALL, cross-country skiing

31 years old

Olympic history

2010 Vancouver -- sixth, team sprint; eighth, sprint; 11th, 4x5-K relay; 23rd, 30-K

2006 Turin -- ninth, sprint; 10th, team sprint; 14th, 4x5-K relay, 53rd, 10-K

2002 Salt Lake City -- 44th, sprint; 66th, 10-K pursuit

Early impression: The first time Randall made headlines for a sports achievement was the 1997 Tortoise and Hare 5-K, when she was 14. She chased down two experienced runners -- Ruth Horton and Kjerstin Lastufka, the reigning Crow Pass Crossing champion -- for the win.

"I started putting in the kick and counting down as I got closer -- 14 seconds, 10 seconds, five seconds," Randall said of catching Lastufka with less than two kilometers left. "I started putting in the long strides. I kept counting and I started to push,'' she said of reeling in Horton.

Said Lastufka, "She snuck up on us. She's an awesome runner and she's going to be making some news.''

Fun facts: Makes history every time she wins a World Cup medal -- no American woman, past or present, rivals her record. East High graduate. Rides a unicycle.

Career highlights:

24-time World Cup/World Cup Stage medals (11 gold, seven silver, six bronze)

Two World Championship medals (2013 team sprint gold, 2009 freestyle spring silver)


29 years old

Olympic history

2006 Turin -- eighth place

Early impression: As a 14-year-old, Schultz and three other teens pulled off a shocking championship victory in the Anchorage Curling Club's Spring Bonspiel. They knocked off all the adult teams and scored a lospided win over a team of servicemen from Canada -- the country that owns the sport -- in the finals.

"It was very scary," Schultz said.

Fun facts: Was MVP of the East High softball team in 2003 and an all-conference pick throughout her high school softball career. A gardener, she grew swiss chard last summer without even knowing what it tastes like. Works in Minneapolis as a physical therapy assistant.

Career highlights:

2014, U.S. Olympic Team Trials champion

2013, fourth place, World Championships

2005, silver medal, World Championships

SADIE BJORNSEN, cross-country skiing

24 years old

Olympic rookie

Early impression: After her first season with APU, she helped nudge brother Erik, who was skiing for UAA at the time, to join her.

"Of course I was pushing him. I wanted him to come here because I've had such an awesome experience and it's been such a sweet season. Summers on the glacier? C'mon, Erik!" she said.

Fun facts: Pursues her college degree online while competing, rising early to attend online classes with APU. First came to Anchorage to ski for UAA, then joined APU. Was an NCAA All-America for UAA, placing third in the classic race at the 2009 national championships.

Career highlights:

2013, bronze medal, World Cup relay

2013, fourth place, World Cup team sprint

2013, three golds, two silvers, U.S. National Championships

ERIK BJORNSEN, cross-country skiing

22 years old

Olympic rookie

Early impression: The Bjornsens started as alpine skiers but they lived in Washington's Methow Valley, prime cross-country territory, so they switched sports. Erik remembered his alpine days in 2011, after joining the APU team:

"We started slowly trying it out and I enjoyed it a lot more. When I think back to downhill skiing, I think of being cold and going up the chairlift freezing," he said.

Fun facts: Scored World Cup points for the first time in his career earlier this month; it was his 11th career start on the big stage. Earned NCAA All-America honors by winning a silver medal in the classic race at the 2011 national championships.

Career highlights:

2014, 18th place, World Cup 15-K classic

2014, one gold, two silvers, U.S. National Championships

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