Alaska Winter Olympians Fund grants scholarships to five elite athletes

Being a world- or national-class athlete doesn't always translate into financial rewards of equal caliber, which is where the Alaska Winter Olympians Fund came in recently, awarding a combined $10,000 in scholarships to five Alaska athletes.

The Alaska Winter Olympians Fund, a scholarship program within The Alaska Community Foundation, granted the following scholarships:

• $2,500 each to Anchorage nordic skiers Holly Brooks, the 2010 Olympian, and Sadie Bjornsen, both of whom are B team members on the U.S. Ski Team.

• $2,500 to figure skater Keegan Messing of Girdwood, who last month won the Cup of Nice competition in France.

• $2,000 to Anchorage's Rosie Mancari, a nationally ranked snowboardcross athlete.

• And $500 to Anchorage's Jack Consenstein who competes in nordic combined, which features nordic ski racing and ski jumping.

Brooks, who last weekend racked a fifth-place finish that marked the best World Cup result of her career and also was part of the first U.S. women's relay team to reach the podium in a World Cup event, said the scholarship will prove critical for her. Brooks and Bjornsen, as B team members, foot nearly all of the expenses to compete.

"Racing on the World Cup is imperative to my growth as a top athlete and my bid toward the Olympics,'' Brooks said in a press release issued by the Alaska Winter Olympians Fund. "The cost of spending five months racing and training in Europe is astronomical, and support like this scholarship is crucial toward my ability to be here, representing Alaska, and pursuing my dreams.''

The scholarships were awarded by a committee that includes several Olympians from Alaska.

One of those Olympians, 2006 bronze medalist and three-time Olympic snowboarder Rosey Fletcher Grunwaldt, said funding is necessary for athletes to achieve their goals.

"Aspiring to be an Olympian takes time and dedication on a level that leaves very little room for anything else,'' she said in the press release. "As an athlete, it is virtually impossible to work a regular 9-5 job because of training and traveling to competitions.''

Anchorage Daily News