By Myra Foster and Meredith Morin
We watch with the world as 14 athletes from Stratton and Stratton Mountain School get ready to compete in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
SMS athletes take center stage in alpine, snowboarding and Nordic events, and we’ll also be cheering on Sarah Hendrickson, granddaughter of retired Stratton ski patroller Scott Hendrickson, as she competes on the first ever women’s ski jumping team, and Mac Bohonnon, son of Stratton safety patroller Dave Bohonnon, in aerials.
Over the course of Stratton Mountain School’s 42-year history, 42 student athletes have gone on to become Olympians, and with this year’s 12 alumni, it is the largest number of SMS athletes to compete in a single Olympics ever. Twelve SMS alumni are two-time Olympians, five are three-time Olympians and one is a four-time Olympian.
Here’s a rundown on the SMS roster in Sochi:
Emily Bamford ’10, Alpine, is a member of the Australian Ski Team, and Sochi will be her first Olympic competition. Recently, Emily scored a 13th-place Slalom (SL) finish in Turnau, Austria on Jan. 18, 2014. During the most recent Southern Hemisphere winter, Emily was second in Slalom (SL) at the National Junior Championships in Australia and has scored several SL top-5 results in the Australia New Zealand Cup this season. She is a three-time winner of the Australian New Zealand Cup overall SL title and has been a member of the Australian National Team since she was 16. She entered into the Northern Hemisphere competition season with her eye on Sochi and a bid for the Australian Olympic Team.
“I’m looking forward to representing my country at the most prestigious sporting event in the world,” Emily said. “That is something that will be a part of me forever. Growing up, the Olympics were always my main goal. And now that I know I have reached it, it is just so rewarding. I’m excited to take in every minute of it!”
Sophie Caldwell ’08, SMS T2, Nordic, of Peru VT is a new U.S. Team addition this year. On Dec. 31, 2013, Sophie skied to a career-best sixth place in the World Cup Sprint final in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. On Jan. 18, 2014, Sophie finished seventh place in the World Cup Sprint final in Szklarska Poreba, Poland and is now currently ranked 10th in the world for Sprint World Cup points, and 25th overall. On Jan. 12, Sophie finished the Team Sprint in 6th in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. After graduating from SMS, Sophie went on to ski for the Dartmouth Ski Team, became a five-time All-American and graduated in 2012. Sophie went on to ski at the highest international levels in the 2012-13 season, and proved that she was up for the challenge, earning 14th in her two, first World Cups in Canada (individual Sprint and Team Sprint). At World Championships last season, Sophie earned a phenomenal 20th in the Sprint. At U.S. Championships, she finished second in the Sprint, and at U23 World Championships, she finished 9th in the Sprint.
This is not only Sophie’s first year on the U.S. Ski Team, but also her first Olympics. She is looking to soak in everything the Olympic experience has to offer, “I’m mostly just really excited for Sochi,” she said. “I’m trying not to set many outcome goals and really focus on enjoying the experience while setting process goals that will prepare me as best as possible. That way, when I get there, I will know I’ve done everything I can to prepare myself and from then on, it’s just a matter of having fun with it and doing another ski race, which I know how to do! As far as the Olympic experience goes, I’m probably the most excited for the opening ceremonies, and as far as the races go, I’m probably the most excited for the skate sprint.”
Danny Davis ’06, Snowboarding Halfpipe competes in his first Olympics. He was a member of the US Snowboarding Team from 2005-2009. On Jan. 26, Danny Davis took X Games halfpipe gold in his first finals appearance, sealing the deal on his epic comeback season. On Jan. 17, 2014 in the final Olympic qualifiers in Mammoth, Calif., Danny clinched his Olympic Team status with a first-place finish, and finished second at the Mammoth HP Grand Prix on Jan. 19.
Danny returned from a two-year hiatus, recovering from injury to compete in the December 2013 Dew Tour superpipe in Breckenridge. He finished seventh in the final, and fourth in the qualifier. On Dec. 21, 2013, Danny was 14th at the Copper World Cup halfpipe (HP) competition and was 15th at the Cardrona, New Zealand World Cup HP on Aug. 24, 2013. Danny was voted 2006 Rookie of the Year in the Transworld Snowboarding Riders Poll Awards, 2006 Rookie of the Year for Snowboarder Magazine and 2008 Snowboarder Magazine Top-10 Riders of the Year. In January 2010, Davis won a snowboard Grand Prix event but suffered a back injury in an ATV accident, ending his 2010 season and Olympic bid.
Alex Deibold ’04, Snowboarding Snowboardcross is from Manchester, Vt. On Dec. 21, 2013, Alex finished on the podium in third at the Lake Louise World Cup snowboardcross event. On Jan. 11, he finished 10th at the Vallnord Arcalis, Andorra World Cup. In 2013, Deibold placed second at the Sochi World Cup and made finals at four out of five World Cup starts in 2013. In 2011, he took seventh and fifth at World Cup races and earned a spot on the World Championship Team.
Although this is the first time Alex will attend the Olympics as a competitor, it’s not his first trip to the Olympics “I went to the last Olympics as a wax tech for the US Snowboard Team, which was really hard work, but I was grateful for the experience of getting to go and help,” Alex said. “But now, making the team as an athlete is a dream-come-true. I’m so excited to experience all the things I got to watch my teammates get to do last time that I had to miss out on. I think the thing I’m most looking forward to is walking in opening ceremonies and getting to be part of that amazing moment.”
Jessie Diggins SMST2, Nordic competes in her first Olympics. Jessie is ranked 16th overall in World Cup points, and 17th in Sprint. On Jan. 18, 2014, Jessie finished the World Cup Sprint final in Szlarska Poreba, Poland in fifth place. Five-time U.S. Champion Jessie Diggins teamed with Kikkan Randall to with the USAs first-ever World Championship gold medal in the team sprint in 2013. She finished eighth in the skate prologue of the World Cup finals and 21st in her first Tour-de-Ski. This winter on Jan. 5, she was ranked 13th in the Tour de Ski overall standings. As a founding member of the SMS T2 team, Jessie spends much of her off-season training time working out alongside current SMS student athletes. She has her game face on and is ready to take on Sochi, saying “I’m looking forward to the relay the most!”
Alexandra Duckworth ’05, Snowboarding Halfpipe, joins the Canadian team in his firstOlympics. On Jan. 18, Alex finished ninth in the Stoneham, Canada World Cup HP, following up her sixth-place finish in the Ruka, Finland HP World Cup on Dec. 13, 2013. She has been consistently making top-10 World Cup results this past year, as well as podium finishes in FIS competitions (3rd on March 16, 2013 in HP at Canada Olympic Park FIS). She was third in HP at Snow Crown – Canadian Snowboard Championships, COP, AB, CAN on March 11, 2013 and was 10th at the FIS World Snowboard Championships in Stoneham on Jan. 28, 2013.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the rest of the Stratton Mountain School alumni, watching as many other sports as I can, and putting down a good run for Canada,” Alex said.
Kris Freeman ’99, Nordic, represents the United States in Olympic competition for the fourth time (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014). His incredible consistency and staying power have made him a fixture on the US Cross Country Team for more than a decade. On Jan. 18, 2014, Kris won the 15km FIS race at Black Mountain, Maine, coming off of his fourth-place Sprint finish at National Championships in Soldier Hollow, Utah on Jan. 10 and his 30km third-place on Jan. 8. Kris was a winter-term student at SMS, and over the course of his career, he has earned top-10s in more than a dozen World Cup finishes.
Simi Hamilton SMS T2, Nordic, is a new member of the SMS T2 family in 2013, and this will be his second Olympic competition. On Dec. 31, 2013, Simi had his career best finish with a World Cup gold in the men’s Sprint in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
“The best memory I have of the season so far is winning the Skate Sprint World Cup in Lenzerheide during the Tour de Ski,” Simi said. “There’s a Skate Sprint at the Games this year, so I’m really, really looking forward to that race as well as the Classic Team Sprint (in which I’ll race with teammate Andy Newell).”
On Jan. 12, 2014, Simi was fifth in the Team Sprint and 20th in the individual Sprint on Jan. 11 in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. He is ranked 20th in World Cup points in Sprint, and 56th overall. Throughout his time on the World Cup, he has made several top-15 Team Sprint finishes, and consistently finishes in the top-20 individually. In 2013, he scored five times on the World Cup circuit, and his best finish was seventh. This is his second Olympics, and he finished 13th in the 4X10 relay and 29th in the men’s Sprint in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
“I’m really looking forward to the type of excitement that is exhibited by all of the other competitors there (at the Olympics),” Simi said. “When I went to the Games in Vancouver, I remember being awe-struck by how psyched everyone was. It’s just such a unique atmosphere in the athletes’ village and at the venue. And even though you get some of the same energy on the World Cup circuit, the amount and intensity of it at the Olympics is absolutely amazing.”
Jackie Hernandez ’10, Snowboarding Snowboardcross is from Londonderry, Vt., and daughter of long-time Stratton Manager Patricia Hernandez. She won the SBX World Cup in Valmalenco, Italy in March 2012, and took eighth in the Blue Mountain, Canada World Cup last February. This is her first Olympic competition.
Jackie came back from injury that sidelined her at the U.S. Grand Prix at The Canyons in Utah last February, but she’s been working hard this season. She finished ninth in the Vallnord Arcalis World Cup in January, and she was sixth at the Montafon, Austria World Cup in December. She clinched her Olympic Team spot for Sochi on Jan. 25, her first Olympic appearance. She has been a member of the US Snowboarding Team since 2011.
“It has been a crazy ride, but I’m so happy,” Jackie said. “I can’t wait to walk into opening ceremonies with Team USA, so proud to represent our country, then get on course and do what I love. I want to bring home a medal, preferably gold. I’m also so stoked on all the support I’m getting. It really means a lot to me.”
Lindsey Jacobellis ’03, Snowboarding Snowboardcross learned to ride at Stratton, the mountain she calls home. On Jan. 24, Lindsey took X Games gold, her eighth, in Aspen. With that win, she became the most decorated female snowboardcross athlete in X Games history. In an interview with ESPN after her win, she said, “The last two years what I’ve been through, this is like the icing on the cake. This is the best confidence I could get going into Sochi.”
With Lindsey’s 2014 Olympic Team nomination, she joins the short list of five SMS alumni who have gone on to represent their country with three Olympic Team placements. Lindsey has dominated the snowboardcross circuit for nearly a decade, wining a silver at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, winning 27 World Cups, ten X Games medals, eight of which are gold.
In December 2013, Lindsey won the Lake Louise, Canada World Cup, and took third in January at the Vallnord Arcalis World Cup. In January 2012, Lindsey won the World Cup in Veysonnaz, Switzerland (her 24th World Cup win), then tore her ACL in a training run at the X Games a week later. When she got on snow last year, she learned that the surgery didn’t take and needed to go back under the knife. Despite this, she is gunning for gold in 2014.
Klara Krizova ’07, Alpine, is a member of the Czech Republic Alpine Ski Team. She is a speed specialist, currently ranked 46th in the world for Downhill. Klara has proven that she has the talent, bagging podiums at the Europa Cup and FIS levels, and consistently finishing in the top-30 at World Cup races. She most recently finished 26th and 30th in the Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy World Cup Downhill (DH) and Super-G (SG) races in January. So far this season, she’s finished 10th in SG in Innerkrems, Austria (Europa Cup) and finished fifth in SG in the St. Moritz Europa Cup. This is Klara’s second trip to the Olympics, where she finished 29th in SG at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
Andy Newell ’02, Nordic hails from Shaftsbury, Vt. With his Sochi Olympic Team nomination, Andy is one of the five SMS graduates who have gone on to earn three Olympic Team nominations. Called “one of the best sprinters in the business” by the US Ski Team, Andy is currently ranked 10th in World Cup Sprint points and 33rd overall. On Jan. 18, Andy finished sixth in the Szklarska Poreba, Poland World Cup Sprint, and fifth in the Team Sprint in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic on Jan. 12. His consistency keeps him on top, winning the US Super Tour Sprint last spring, and the Australia New Zealand Cup this past summer.
Andy finished the 2013 season ranked fifth in the world for Sprint distance including six, top-10 World Cup finishes and a 10th-place at World Championships in the 4X5K relay.
“It’s going to be amazing to head to Sochi for my third Olympics,” Andy said. “This time around feels different because we have a cross country team that’s more competitive than ever before, and we have strong medal potential on both the men’s and women’s sides. I’m personally looking to really redeem myself after crashing out of the Vancouver sprint. That was a really frustrating day for me, but I know it can only get better from there. This time around, I’m confident that I can be as fast as anyone else in the Sprint, and I’m going to make sure I have a lot of fun out there.”