Meet Alaska's team for the Sochi Games

Beth Bragg
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Kikkan Randall skis the first leg in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Kikkan Randall skis the first leg in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Sadie Bjornsen skis in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Sadie Bjornsen skis in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Sadie Bjornsen skis in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Kikkan Randall walks from the venue back towards the athlete's village after skiing in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
United States' Sadie Bjornsen competes during the women's 10K classical-style cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong
United States' Sadie Bjornsen skis with a sleeveless top as temperatures went well over the freezing point during the women's 10K classical-style cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader
United States' Sadie Bjornsen skis with a sleeveless top during the women's 10K classical-style cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader
United States' Sadie Bjornsen skis with a sleeveless top as snow deteriorates during the women's 10K classical-style cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader
Photo by Michael Smith 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
Photo by Michael Smith Nina Kemppel holds a Rogers Park Elementary School banner near the Olympic flame 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.
Michael Smith
Nina Kemppel and husband Michael Smith hold a Rogers Park Elementary School banner in Sochi. Kemppel, a four-time Olympian in nordic skiing, is the aunt of Rogers Park first grader Logan Cuddy, and the 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 courtesy Nina Kemppel
Ann Swisshelm, left, and Jessica Schultz of the United States sweep the ice during the women's curling competition against Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Wong Maye-E
Germany's Nicole Fessel, left, and United States' Sadie Bjornsen ski on the finish straight during the women's 10K classical-style cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader
Ida Sargent (left) and Holly Brooks ski in the women's 10 k classic individual start race at the Olympics on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Laura Cross-Country Ski Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
Holly Brooks skis in the women's 10 K classic individual start race at the Olympics on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Laura Cross-Country Ski Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
Holly Brooks skis in the women's 10 K classic individual start race at the Olympics on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Laura Cross-Country Ski Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
Sadie Bjornsen skis in the women's 10 k classic individual start race at the Olympics on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Laura Cross-Country Ski Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
Sadie Bjornsen skis in the women's 10 k classic individual start race at the Olympics on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Laura Cross-Country Ski Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
United States' Kikkan Randall catches her breath after her women's quarterfinal heat of the cross-country sprint at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader
United States' Kikkan Randall competes during the women's qualifications of the cross-country sprint at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Felipe Dana
Ann Swisshelm, left, and Jessica Schultz of the United States sweep the ice during the women's curling competition against Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Wong Maye-E
Team USA's Ann Swisshelm, left, and Jessica Schultz, sweep ahead of the rock during women's curling competition against Switzerland at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
Robert F. Bukaty
Team USA's Jessica Schultz, right, delivers the rock as Allison Pottinger sweeps during the first day of training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Robert F. Bukaty
Team USA skip Erika Brown, right, uses a stopwatch to time the throw from teammate Jessica Schultz during the first day of curling training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Robert F. Bukaty
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News Erik Bjornsen competing in the men's 30-K cross-country pursuit race on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, at the Laura cross-country ski center in the mountains outside of Sochi, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News Erik Bjornsen competing in the men's 30-K cross-country pursuit race on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, at the Laura cross-country ski center in the mountains outside of Sochi, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
Ashley Wagner of the United States competes in the women's team short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Vadim Ghirda
Ashley Wagner of the United States competes in the women's team short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Bernat Armangue
Ashley Wagner of the United States waits for her results after competing in the women's team short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, Pool)
Darron Cummings
Sara Studebaker of the United States skis during a biathlon training session, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Lee Jin-man
Sara Studebaker of the United States shoots during a biathlon training session at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Lee Jin-man
Sara Studebaker, of the United States, center, gets ready to shoot during a Biathlon training session, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Lee Jin-man
United States' Ryan Stassel takes a jump during the men's snowboard slopestyle semifinal at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Sergei Grits
United States' Sophie Caldwell, left, and Sadie Bjornsen hang jokingly on the Olympic rings during a cross country training session prior to the Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader
Erik Bjornsen is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Long Photography, Inc.
Holly Brooks is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Long Photography, Inc.
Jessica Schultz is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Long Photography, Inc.
Kikkan Randall is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Long Photography, Inc.
Ryan Stassel is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Long Photography, Inc.
Sadie Bjornsen is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Long Photography, Inc.
Ashley Wagner of the United States skates at the figure stating practice rink ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Ivan Sekretarev
Ashley Wagner, of the United States, skates at the figure stating practice rink ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Ivan Sekretarev
Ashley Wagner, of the United States, skates at the figure stating practice rink ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Ivan Sekretarev
Ashley Wagner, of the United States, skates at the figure stating practice rink ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Ivan Sekretarev
Ryan Stassel of the United States takes a jump during a snowboard slopestyle training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Andy Wong
Ryan Stassel of the United States takes a jump during a snowboard slopestyle training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Andy Wong
Ryan Stassel of the United States takes a jump during a snowboard slopestyle training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Sergei Grits
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Kikkan Randall skis the first leg in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Kikkan Randall skis the first leg in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Sadie Bjornsen skis in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Sadie Bjornsen skis in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Sadie Bjornsen skis in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Kikkan Randall walks from the venue back towards the athlete's village after skiing in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
United States' Sadie Bjornsen competes during the women's 10K classical-style cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong
United States' Sadie Bjornsen skis with a sleeveless top as temperatures went well over the freezing point during the women's 10K classical-style cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader
United States' Sadie Bjornsen skis with a sleeveless top during the women's 10K classical-style cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader
United States' Sadie Bjornsen skis with a sleeveless top as snow deteriorates during the women's 10K classical-style cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader
Photo by Michael Smith 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
Photo by Michael Smith Nina Kemppel holds a Rogers Park Elementary School banner near the Olympic flame 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.
Michael Smith
Nina Kemppel and husband Michael Smith hold a Rogers Park Elementary School banner in Sochi. Kemppel, a four-time Olympian in nordic skiing, is the aunt of Rogers Park first grader Logan Cuddy, and the 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 courtesy Nina Kemppel
Ann Swisshelm, left, and Jessica Schultz of the United States sweep the ice during the women's curling competition against Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Wong Maye-E
Germany's Nicole Fessel, left, and United States' Sadie Bjornsen ski on the finish straight during the women's 10K classical-style cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader
Ida Sargent (left) and Holly Brooks ski in the women's 10 k classic individual start race at the Olympics on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Laura Cross-Country Ski Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
Holly Brooks skis in the women's 10 K classic individual start race at the Olympics on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Laura Cross-Country Ski Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
Holly Brooks skis in the women's 10 K classic individual start race at the Olympics on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Laura Cross-Country Ski Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
Sadie Bjornsen skis in the women's 10 k classic individual start race at the Olympics on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Laura Cross-Country Ski Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
Sadie Bjornsen skis in the women's 10 k classic individual start race at the Olympics on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Laura Cross-Country Ski Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
United States' Kikkan Randall catches her breath after her women's quarterfinal heat of the cross-country sprint at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader
United States' Kikkan Randall competes during the women's qualifications of the cross-country sprint at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Felipe Dana
Ann Swisshelm, left, and Jessica Schultz of the United States sweep the ice during the women's curling competition against Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Wong Maye-E
Team USA's Ann Swisshelm, left, and Jessica Schultz, sweep ahead of the rock during women's curling competition against Switzerland at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
Robert F. Bukaty
Team USA's Jessica Schultz, right, delivers the rock as Allison Pottinger sweeps during the first day of training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Robert F. Bukaty
Team USA skip Erika Brown, right, uses a stopwatch to time the throw from teammate Jessica Schultz during the first day of curling training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Robert F. Bukaty
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News Erik Bjornsen competing in the men's 30-K cross-country pursuit race on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, at the Laura cross-country ski center in the mountains outside of Sochi, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News Erik Bjornsen competing in the men's 30-K cross-country pursuit race on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, at the Laura cross-country ski center in the mountains outside of Sochi, Russia.
Nathaniel Herz
Ashley Wagner of the United States competes in the women's team short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Vadim Ghirda
Ashley Wagner of the United States competes in the women's team short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Bernat Armangue
Ashley Wagner of the United States waits for her results after competing in the women's team short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, Pool)
Darron Cummings
Sara Studebaker of the United States skis during a biathlon training session, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Lee Jin-man
Sara Studebaker of the United States shoots during a biathlon training session at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Lee Jin-man
Sara Studebaker, of the United States, center, gets ready to shoot during a Biathlon training session, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Lee Jin-man
United States' Ryan Stassel takes a jump during the men's snowboard slopestyle semifinal at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Sergei Grits
United States' Sophie Caldwell, left, and Sadie Bjornsen hang jokingly on the Olympic rings during a cross country training session prior to the Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader
Erik Bjornsen is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Long Photography, Inc.
Holly Brooks is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Long Photography, Inc.
Jessica Schultz is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Long Photography, Inc.
Kikkan Randall is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Long Photography, Inc.
Ryan Stassel is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Long Photography, Inc.
Sadie Bjornsen is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Long Photography, Inc.
Ashley Wagner of the United States skates at the figure stating practice rink ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Ivan Sekretarev
Ashley Wagner, of the United States, skates at the figure stating practice rink ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Ivan Sekretarev
Ashley Wagner, of the United States, skates at the figure stating practice rink ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Ivan Sekretarev
Ashley Wagner, of the United States, skates at the figure stating practice rink ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Ivan Sekretarev
Ryan Stassel of the United States takes a jump during a snowboard slopestyle training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Andy Wong
Ryan Stassel of the United States takes a jump during a snowboard slopestyle training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Andy Wong
Ryan Stassel of the United States takes a jump during a snowboard slopestyle training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Sergei Grits
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Kikkan Randall skis the first leg in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz
Nathaniel Herz / Anchorage Daily News / FasterSkier.com Kikkan Randall skis the first leg in the 4x5 relay Saturday, February 15, 2014.
Nathaniel Herz

For years, they could see Russia from here.

Now, a half-dozen Alaska athletes are sampling borscht and taking flight over giant Matroyshka nesting dolls situated at the competition venues at the XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

They are 13 time zones away in pursuit of personal goals, if not global dominance -- although the latter is expected from one of them. Anchorage's Kikkan Randall is a gold-medal favorite in cross-country skiing's freestyle sprint.

Joining her on Team USA:

• Anchorage cross-country skier Holly Brooks, 31, a veteran of the 2010 Games.

• Anchorage curler Jessica Schultz, 29, a member of the 2006 team.

• Anchorage cross-country skiers Sadie and Erik Bjornsen, one of at least seven sibling acts on Team USA, both of them Olympic rookies.

• Anchorage slopestyle snowboarder Ryan Stassel, whose Olympic debut coincided with the Olympic debut of his sport. Stassel, 21, placed 16th in Thursday's preliminaries and will face heated competition in Friday's semifinals.

Randall, 31, is the Olympic expert of the bunch. This is her fourth Olympics.

"Having been to three so far, I've gone from knowing a great result would be to break into the top 10 to knowing that if things go well there could be some medal chances," Randall said in an interview earlier this season. "The most important thing is to do the preparation and come in with a great frame of mind.

"I'm excited for the opportunity but I'm not gonna hang my career on whether I win a medal at this Olympics."

No reason for that. Randall's greatness has been well chronicled. No other American cross-country skier has had a better career. Only one, 1976 silver medalist Bill Koch, has won an Olympic medal.

Randall recorded two victories in her last three sprint races, an indication she is ready to roll in Russia. Her big race -- the freestyle sprint -- is Tuesday. Alaskans will have to pull an all-nighter to watch it live -- preliminaries begin at 1 a.m. Alaska time and the finals are shortly before 4:30 a.m.

PRIMED

Many of the other Alaskans also seem primed:

• Brooks enjoyed the best season of her life a year ago -- among other things, she earned a bronze medal in a World Cup relay. But she struggled early in this season, and after Christmas she decided to make a quick trip back to the United States to regroup. Since returning to Europe, she has posted her best results of the season.

• Sadie Bjornsen was held back by injuries in recent years but she's been on fire this season. A strong classic skier, she earned two top-10 World Cup finishes and helped the Americans to bronze in a relay.

• Erik Bjornsen has competed primarily in domestic races in recent years but after winning three medals at the national championships last month in Utah, he joined the U.S. team in Europe. He came up big, placing 18th in a 15-kilometer classic race for the first World Cup points of his career.

• Schultz and her teammates were one spot away from a medal at last year's world championships, placing fourth. If things go well, they could wind up in the medal round at Sochi. Four years ago, Schultz was a member of an underdog team that won the U.S. Olympics trials and finished eighth in Vancouver. She has new teammates now, and a lot more experience.

"Going into the Olympics we didn't know how to prepare or what to expect," Schultz said earlier this season. "Being on the team I'm on now, we know what we need to do to reach our goals. We know what to expect."

TEAM ALASKA ASTERISK

Because this is the Olympics, everyplace wants Olympians to call their own.

Remember back when Tommy Moe won Olympic gold and silver in 1994, and both Girdwood and Palmer fought for the right to be called his hometown? And some town in Montana even tried to claim him as a local?

With that in mind, meet Team Alaska Asterisk.

It's a squad of five athletes with strong ties to Alaska:

• Figure skater Ashley Wagner of Alexandria, Va., who grew up in Eagle River and learned to skate during the several years her military family lived here.

• Slopestyle skier Dave Duncan of Canada, who was an alpine skier for UAA in 2003-06.

• Cross-country skier Andrew Musgrave of Great Britain, the son of an oil executive who learned to cross-country ski while his family lived in Alaska. His older brother Ben skied for Service High.

• Alpine skier Anna Berecz of Hungary, who is a junior on the UAA ski team.

• Biathlete Sara Studebaker of Boise, who has made Anchorage one of her training bases. Her tie is about to get stronger -- she is engaged to Nikiski's Zach Hall, a former member of the U.S. Biathlon Team.

IN THE RUNNING?

At least a couple members of Team Asterisk -- Wagner and Duncan -- could be in the medal hunt.

Duncan won the last two World Cup slopestyle races, so he is among the favorites in Sochi. And skater Wagner is ranked fifth in the world, higher than any other U.S. woman.

You'll see plenty of Wagner, because figure skating is one of the Winter Olympics' glamor sports. She's also getting attention because she is one of the few American athletes willing to publicly denounce Russia's anti-gay law prohibiting gay "propaganda" aimed at children.

She spoke out last year when the law was passed, and earlier this week she told reporters that she won't hide her opinions if asked about the issue while in Sochi.

"It doesn't really matter where I am. It's still my opinion," Wagner was quoted by The Associated Press. "I just believe in equality for all."

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

 


By BETH BRAGG
bbragg@adn.com