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Olympic hopefuls Stassel, Mancari await their fate along with several Alaska nordic skiers

  • Author: Beth Bragg
    | Sports
  • Updated: January 24
  • Published January 20

Ryan Stassel of Anchorage jumps over a big Russian doll on the course during slopestyle competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  (Doug Mills/New York Times archive 2014)

It's wait-and-see time for a several Olympic-hopeful skiers and snowboarders from Alaska, including Anchorage snowboarders Ryan Stassel and Rosie Mancari.

Stassel and Mancari both failed to clinch spots on the U.S. team Saturday, the final day for athletes in their respective disciplines to meet automatic qualifying standards.

Now, their Olympic fate will be decided by team quotas and U.S. coaches. They and about a half-dozen Alaska cross-country skiers have fingers crossed that they'll make the team as discretionary picks when selections are announced in the coming days.

Stassel, a 2014 Olympian, needed to be the top American and make the podium in the men's slopestyle competition Saturday at the U.S. Grand Prix at California's Mammoth Mountain in order to clinch an automatic Olympic berth.

Instead, he finished fifth and trailed a trio of other Americans who swept the podium. The winner, Kyle Mack of Bloomfield, Michigan, clinched an Olympic berth to join previously qualified slopestylers Red Gerard and Chris Corning on the U.S. team.

Mancari, who turns 24 on Monday, also needed a strong performance but didn't make it to the quarterfinals Saturday at a World Cup snowboardcross competition in Erzurum, Turkey.

She placed 25th and was the second American behind seventh-place Meghan Tierney of New Jersey. The two Americans who have already secured trips to South Korea in women's snowboardcross — Lindsey Jacobellis and Faye Gulini — did not compete.

Tom Kelly, a spokesman for U.S. Skiing and Snowboarding, on Saturday said the United States will learn early in the week how many athletes it can send to Pyeongchang in each discipline. If there are more spots than automatically qualified athletics, coaches can choose to add to the team by making discretionary choices.

It's worth noting that the U.S. Ski Team does not always fill its quotas.

Stassel, 25, was a discretionary choice in 2014. If the U.S. gets four spots in men's slopestyle and big air, he'll be in the running to again make the Olympic team as discretionary pick.

Going into this week's competition at Mammoth Mountain, he and Chandler Hunt were tied for third place in the U.S. qualifying standings, behind Gerard and Corning. Stassel placed fifth Saturday with 75.98 points and Hunt finished seventh with 73.26.

Mancari, who hopes to make her Olympic debut next month, ranks 14th in the World Cup snowboardcross standings. She's the third American, behind third-place Jacobellis and sixth-place Gulini, and she is ahead of Tierney, who is ranked 21st.

Mancari's best World Cup result this season came in December when she placed 14th in Cervina, Italy.

Also waiting to see whether the U.S. Ski Team will make them discretionary picks are half a dozen cross-country skiers from Alaska who are currently competing in World Cup races in Europe.

Anchorage’s Scott Patterson won the men’s 15K freestyle at the national championships earlier this month at Kincaid Park. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Caitlin Patterson and Rosie Frankowski of Anchorage and Chelsea Holmes of Girdwood hope to make a strong women's team. How strong? So strong that seven women have already clinched Olympic spots by climbing into the top 40 of the World Cup rankings.

Among them are three Anchorage skiers who train with Alaska Pacific University's nordic team — Kikkan Randall, who will make her fifth Olympic appearance; Sadie Bjornsen, who will make her second; and Rosie Brennan, a first-time Olympian.

Though cross country quotas aren't yet known, it's believed that at most the United States will be able to send 10 men and 10 women. But coaches may decide to send fewer than the allowable quota, which has happened in the past.

Only three U.S. men have met the automatic qualifying requirements, including one from Anchorage — Erik Bjornsen, a 2014 Olympian and Sadie's brother.

Several other Anchorage men could make a case they deserve to be discretionary picks, including Scott Patterson, who spent the first half of the season on the U.S. Ski Team's World Cup team.

Patterson is one of three APU skiers who won national championships at Kincaid Park to bolster their bids. Patterson won the 15-kilometer freestyle, Tyler Kornfield won the 30K classic and Reese Hanneman won both of the two sprint titles.

In addition, Reese's brother Logan put down two strong qualifying-heat performances in both sprint races to keep his hopes alive. Eric Packer also had a strong showing at the national championships and could also be in the mix for a discretionary spot.

Kornfield and the Hannemans raced in Saturday's classic sprint in Planica, Slovenia. None advanced to the quarterfinals by cracking the top 30 during qualifying, but Logan Hanneman and Kornfield came close.

Hanneman finished 35th in qualifying, 1.63 seconds out of 30th place and the third American behind Simi Hamilton and Andy Newell, who are both Olympic-bound. Kornfield was 38th, 2.04 seconds out of 30th, and Reese Hanneman placed 51st.

Patterson and Kornfield are both entered in Sunday's distance race.

The U.S. women continued their stellar season Saturday in the classic sprint at Planica. Minnesota's Jessie Diggins finished fourth, Vermont's Sophie Caldwell was ninth, Bjornsen was 21st and Vermont's Ida Sergeant was 23rd.

Brennan and Patterson finished 49th and 53rd, respectively,  in qualifying and didn't advance to the quarterfinals. Randall, who has battled an injury in recent weeks, didn't race.

Olympic-bound Alaskans

Kikkan Randall, cross country

Sadie Bjornsen, cross country

Rosie Brennan, cross country

Erik Bjornsen, cross country

Keegan Messing, figure skating

Mat Robinson, hockey

(Messing, a Girdwood man who has dual U.S./Canada citizenship, and Robinson, a former UAA hockey player from Calgary, are both members of Canada's Olympic team)

Additional Alaskans may make this team this week when discretionary selections are made.

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