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In Alaska, diehard fans face their own Olympic test of endurance: Staying awake

  • Author: Nathaniel Herz
  • Updated: February 14, 2018
  • Published February 13, 2018

In Fairbanks, Christina Turman and her husband decorated, borrowed projectors and rented a screen for an early-morning Olympic viewing session Tuesday. (Photo courtesy Christina Turman)

A small tribe of Alaskans woke up tired Tuesday morning, thanks to the Winter Olympics.

No, not Logan Hanneman and siblings Erik and Sadie Bjornsen — the three Alaskans who raced Tuesday's cross-country skiing sprint at the Games.

This was their fans and friends back home, who stayed up as late as 4 a.m. to watch the trio, and five other Americans, compete live.

South Korea, the site of this year's games, is 18 time zones ahead of Alaska. That meant Monday night's — okay, Tuesday morning's — race ran from just before midnight until almost 3:45 a.m. here.

The scene at Cory Smith’s home early Tuesday morning. (Courtesy Cory Smith)

Cory Smith, a former elite ski racer in Anchorage, describes himself as neither a night person nor a morning person. But he nonetheless had no problem waking up when his alarm went off at 1:50 a.m. — just before the start of the sprint race's knockout rounds, in which the Americans had an outside shot at winning the country's first cross-country skiing medal since 1976.

"I guess it's because I'm a die-hard," Smith, 43, said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. "If, by chance, we do happen to get that medal, I want to see it happen. I don't want to wake up the next morning and find out that I've missed it."

He added: "It's the least I can do for the team."

Smith watched the race with his wife on a laptop. He made sure to set his alarm with enough time before the sprint heats started: Four years ago, by the time he got his stream working, Anchorage skier Kikkan Randall had already been knocked out of the rounds.

In Fairbanks, meanwhile, a dozen people gathered just before midnight at the home of Christina Turman. She was one of Hanneman's coaches at the University of Alaska Fairbanks; her sister also happens to be engaged to him, and she's in South Korea.

Some of the treats at Turman’s home (Courtesy Christina Turman)

Turman invited friends to her house in a Monday morning Facebook post, punctuated with all-caps: "Logan Hanneman IS RACING IN THE OLYMPICS TONIGHT!!!!"

Her response to a reporter's message Tuesday afternoon was delayed, she said, because she was napping.

Turman and her husband rented a screen and borrowed two projectors; they hung an American flag and streamers and there was a stars-and-stripes cake.

Hanneman's start time was just after midnight. But right when the live stream would have shown him skiing to the finish, the feed cut away: The only South Korean competitor was starting.

"They actually never showed him," Turman said.

Hanneman finished in three minutes, 21 seconds — three seconds too slow to qualify for the knockout rounds. That meant Turman's house emptied out in time for her to get to bed before 2 a.m.

"Had Logan made the heats, I think there would have been a lot of people taking a nap on the living room floor waiting for that," Turman said. "But people ended up leaving."

Turman said she still watched those heats on tape delay when she woke up, "first thing."

Most of the remaining cross-country ski races are scheduled for a more humane hour, but not all of them. Saturday's women's relay starts at 12:30 a.m., and the team sprint finals are at 1 a.m. next week.

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