Sochi Report, Alaska edition: West High represents, curlers officially out of contention

bbragg@adn.comFebruary 15, 2014 

Nina Kemppel holds a Rogers Park Elementary School banner near the Olympic rings in Sochi. Kemppel, a four-time Olympian in nordic skiing, is the aunt of Rogers Park first grader Logan Cuddy, and her banner is signed by some of the first graders and kindergartners at the school. Rogers Park held its own opening ceremony Feb. 6, 2014, and students are participating in various events during their physical education classes.

PHOTO BY MICHAEL SMITH

WEST EAGLES RULE!

The West High Classes of 1988 and 1989 are well represented at the Winter Olympics. In fact, they are in some ways running the show.

Nina Kemppel, a four-time Olympian who graduated in 1988, is in Sochi as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee's board of directors, meaning she is a big deal.

Joey Caterinichio, another 1988 West grad, is the nordic program director for the U.S. Ski Team, a job that takes advantage of organizational skills long on display when she was working at the grass-roots level in Alaska as a coach, club organizer and administrator.

And Chris Grover, who graduated from West in 1989, is the head cross country coach for the U.S. Ski Team. A member of the coaching staff since 1999, he became head coach in 2010.

Caterinichio, who is the team leader in Sochi for the cross country, ski jumping and nordic combined teams, said she works with Grover weekly, sometimes daily. Habits he displayed in high school serve him well today, she said.

"Chris always had a great work ethic as a teammate," Caterinichio said in an email from Sochi. "You could see him documenting hours and following plans. I do see those skills now, working with him.

"He also runs the show very elegantly. He is always calm and collected on the outside no matter how he feels on the inside. ...If you have a weak leader and someone who is uneven emotionally, that can be detrimental."

Caterinichio said Kemppel, the CEO of the Alaska Humanities Forum, remains an important role model long after her 1998 retirement from ski racing.

"Nina was very focused and dedicated when we were young," she said. "She had a plan and she knew what she wanted. She is still doing that now."

Caterinichio went to the 2010 Olympics as Kemppel's guest. She enjoyed VIP privileges and saw a lot of events. Four years later, she is staying with the ski teams in the athletes village, has a full-access credential and even a car while in Sochi.

"My pass seems to get me everywhere," she said. "I love being waived on, because security here is big."

WHO'S ON DECK?

All times AST

Sunday

Curling -- U.S. vs. Canada, 1 a.m. (Jessica Schultz)

Curling -- U.S. vs. Korea, 8 p.m. (Jessica Schultz).

Cross country -- Men's 4x10-kilometer relay, 1 a.m. (Erik Bjornsen)

Monday

Alpine skiing -- Women's giant slalom, 10 p.m. (Anna Berecz)

Biathlon -- Women's 12.5-K mass start, 6 a.m. (Sara Studebaker, Lanny Barnes)

CURLERS OUT, IF NOT DOWN

From fourth in the world to last at the Olympics?

That could be the sad result for Jessica Schultz of Anchorage and her U.S. teammates, who still have two games remaining but on Saturday were officially eliminated from playoff contention in the women's curling tournament.

The Americans slipped to 1-6 round-robin play after losing by one point to Sweden. They are in sole possession of last place in the 10-team Olympic field -- an unexpected performance by a team that placed fourth in last year's world championships.

Sweden claimed a 7-6 win in a game decided by a measure in the 10th end. It was determined that Sweden's final stone was just a whisker closer to the center of the rings than the final stone by the United States.

"Listen, I'd rather lose it like that then the way we've lost some of the others," U.S. skip Erika Brown said. "I love it when they're good, hard battles with lots of great shots. I'm thrilled that it was a game like that. We've been waiting to have a game like that and obviously we want to come out on top. That's the way I think this team plays most of the time and I'm so proud that they came out and played a really great game."

Little has gone the Americans' way in Sochi. Great Britain set an Olympic record by scoring seven points in a single end against the United States, which lost four straight games before getting its lone victory.

Schultz, Brown, Debbie McCormick and Ann Swisshelm face Canada, the tournament's top team, in their next game, which happened early Sunday. Their final game, against Korea, is at 8 p.m. Alaska time Sunday.

"(W)e haven't lost the fire," McCormick said. "We definitely want to do the best we can for the United States and for ourselves. We're not giving up; we still want to play our best."

RUSSIAN 101

"Shayba" is the Russian word for "puck."

Written and compiled by Daily News sports editor Beth Bragg, with contributions from wire services and Nat Herz, who is in Sochi for fasterskier.com and the Daily News.

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