Athletic talent runs in the family on the U.S. Olympic team headed to South Korea for the 2018 Winter Games. There are three sets of siblings on this year's Olympic cross-country skiing squad—two of which have Northwest roots.
The 20-member U.S. Olympic cross-country ski team includes two brothers from Fairbanks, a brother and sister who were born in McCall, Idaho, and another brother and sister who were born and raised along the ski trails of Washington's Methow Valley.
"It typically starts with kind of like a family activity,” Erik said. “Then it goes from there and turns more competitive."
Sadie, 28, said she and her brother, 26, still have a friendly rivalry even though they don't compete directly.
"I think it's sort of this healthy motivation and encouragement and also an extra amount of support that definitely makes the experience more fun and a little more sustainable, I would say,” she said.
This will be the second trip to the Olympics for the Bjornsens. Looking back, Erik said the first time around it was a victory just to make the Olympic team.
"This year it is definitely a different situation,” he said.
"It's really fun to be going into these Olympics with a specific goal,” Sadie said. "I am definitely going there to win an Olympic medal."
Erik guessed he may appear in as many as six races in PyeongChang at his coaches' discretion. Sadie said she looks forward to racing the classic sprint and the 10K freestyle. She is also likely to appear in team or relay events.
Erik and Sadie grew up with former Olympic cross-country skiers as neighbors on two sides. Three-time Olympian Leslie Thompson Hall (1988, 1992, 1994) and two-time Olympian Laura McCabe (1994, 1998) also served as youth coaches. An enviable, 120-mile long Nordic trail system started practically at their doorstep.
The Bjornsens went on to join Alaska Pacific University's elite Nordic club, which produced nine of this year's U.S. cross-country Olympians. Sadie and Erik continue to live in Anchorage now.
Teammates Caitlin Patterson, 28, and Scott Patterson, 25, began skiing at an early age in McCall in western Idaho. Their family moved to Anchorage in 2005 when the siblings were in high school and middle school respectively.
Brothers Reese Hanneman, 28, and Logan Hanneman, 24, were born and raised in Fairbanks. This duo is strongest in sprint events.
Reese told Alaska Public Media that part of his success is due to his brother Logan.
“We have been competing against each other, in one sport or another, for our entire lives,” he said. “And the brotherly competition and cooperation has undoubtedly propelled us to this point.”
The Bjornsens were the only siblings on the U.S. cross-country ski team in Sochi in 2014. The Patterson and Hanneman siblings are making their Olympic debuts in PyeongChang.
More sibling pairs can be found elsewhere on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team:
- Brother and sister Alex and Maia Shibutani will compete in ice dancing.
- The U.S. women's hockey team features twins, Monica Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson.
- Brothers Taylor and Bryan Fletcher will compete side-by-side for the second straight Winter Olympics in Nordic combined—ski jumping plus cross-country skiing.
- Siblings Becca and Matt Hamilton will go for gold as a team in mixed curling and then join the respective U.S. men's and women's curling squads.