From Selawik to Sochi
Scores of kids throughout rural Alaska are following the Winter Olympics with a vested interest: Some of the athletes competing in Sochi taught them how to ski.
Four members of Team USA are instructors for NANANordic, a program that each spring sends elite skiers into 11 remote villages to teach kids how to ski.
Among the volunteer coaches are four athletes competing in Sochi -- cross-country skier Erik Bjornsen and biathletes Sara Studebaker, Susan Dunklee and Hannah Dreissigacker.
NANANordic is the brainchild of two-time Olympic skier Lars Flora -- whose brother Erik is in Sochi, coaching Kikkan Randall and other members of Team USA. Flora recruits top-level high school and college skiers and even world-class racers to volunteer their time to the program, now in its third year.
The Olympians who have helped out do more than share their expertise, said Flora, who skied in the 2002 and 2006 Olympics.
"They're showing that you're never too good to give back," he said in a press release from NANA.
Flora and his instructors spent about a month in the Bush each spring, spending a week at a time in each village they visit. They teach skiing to kids during P.E. classes during the day and hold after-school programs for kids and adults. When they depart, they leave behind skis and poles -- the NANA corporation each year donates about 300 pairs of skis to the program.
The NANA region has 11 villages in northwest Alaska, and the corporations says it expects NANANordic to reach more than 2,000 kids and adults this year.
"Teaching NANA village kids the life-long sport of cross-country skiing is so gratifying," said Bjornsen, a first-time Olympian, "and makes us feel like we've contributed to Alaska's well-being."
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
Anchorage skiers Holly Brooks and Sadie Bjornsen raced early Thursday in the women's 10-K classic. You may be able to see some highlights on NBC's tape-delayed, prime time coverage Thursday night.
Schultz, teammates on thin ice
Jessica Schultz and her U.S. women's curling teammates lost their fourth straight game Wednesday when China took a last-rock, 7-4 victory. The Americans, 0-4, likely need to win all of their final five round-robin games to advance to the semifinals.
It's been a rough road for the Americans. China is the reigning Olympic bronze medalist. Great Britain, which clobbered them Tuesday, is the reigning world champion. Switzerland, which rallied past them Monday, was the 2012 world champion.
But maybe no opponent was more intimidating that Russia, which handed Schultz and her teammates a 9-7 setback Tuesday, a day when the U.S. played twice.
The atmosphere for the Russia game was raucous -- so loud players needed to use hand signals, the New York Daily News reported. The reason for all the excitement wasn't so much because the home team was playing but because the Maria Sharapova of curling -- Anna Sidorova -- plays for Russia.
Erika Brown, skip of the American team, told the New York Daily News she didn't mind the fuss over Sidorova, who did some risque photo shoots before the Olympics. "The more media coverage they get, the more it exposes people to our sport," she said.
WHO'S CRYING NOW?
It's not the Olympics if there isn't crying. Surely a few Alaskans shed a tear for Kikkan Randall on Tuesday, when her quest for gold fell short.
Sochi Report knows someone who cried during the parade of athletes at the opening ceremonies. We know someone who cried at the medal ceremony for moguls when sisters Justin and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe accepted gold and silver, while older sister Maxime, who placed 12th, watched proudly and tearfully.
Sochi Report confesses that it cried before the Olympics even started -- during a Scott Hamilton tribute during some figure skating TV special a week before the Olympics.
Have you cried yet?
WHO'S ON DECK?
All Times AST
Cross country -- Women's 10-K classic, 1 a.m. (Holly Brooks, )
Curling -- U.S. women vs. Japan, 6 a.m. (Jessica Schultz)
Curling -- U.S. women vs. Denmark, 1 a.m. (Jessica Schultz)
Cross country -- Men's 15-K classic, 1 a.m. (TBD), 1 a.m.
Biathlon -- Women's 15-K, 5 a.m. (Sara Studbaker, Lanny Barnes)
Alpine skiing -- women's super-G, 10 p.m. (Anne Berecz)
Cross country -- Women's 4x5-kilometer relay, 1 a.m. (Kikkan Randall)
Curling -- U.S. women vs Sweden, 6 a.m. (Jessica Schultz)
A Russian mint produced 1 million pins for the Olympics, but they are hard to find in Sochi. Thirty percent have already been sold in stores throughout Russia, but so far they aren't on sale at Sochi's Olympic Park. That will change soon, said organizers, who have been quizzed about the pins two days in a row at the daily IOC press conferences.
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.
By BETH BRAGG