The U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team (USST) includes seven men and seven women, filling 14 of the maximum 17 quota spots. On a conference call, head coach Chris Grover explained that no discretion was involved, leaving the selection to either the first criteria of a top-50 World Cup ranking or the third standard regarding International Ski Federation (FIS)-point rankings.
The objective was to fill the maximum starts allowed per race, not necessarily the quota.
“We’re excited to announce the strongest cross-country team to the Winter Olympic Games in modern history, if not ever,” Grover said.
The women’s team is led by Olympic veterans Kikkan Randall (APU/USST), Liz Stephen (Burke/USST), and Holly Brooks (APU/USST) and also includes Sadie Bjornsen (APU/USST), Sophie Caldwell (SMST2/USST), Jessie Diggins (SMST2/USST), and Ida Sargent (CGRP/USST).
The men’s team includes Olympic veterans Andy Newell (SMST2/USST), Simi Hamilton (SMST2/USST), Kris Freeman (MWSC) and Torin Koos (BSF/Rossignol), plus Noah Hoffman (SSCV/Team HomeGrown/USST), Erik Bjornsen (APU/USST), and Brian Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus).
While three of the seven men on the team are not on the U.S. Ski Team, all of the women are on the national squad.
“We had our team approved last night,” Grover explained. “I’ve notified everyone that was in the top 10 of the rankings, but on the wrong side of the selection. Some athletes knew it was coming for sure; everyone had seen the points list…
“We really tried to apply the selection criteria in the most fair way possible,” he continued. “That becomes for sure a challenge, especially on the men’s side when you get down to the sixth, seventh, eighth guys, you’re really splitting hairs because the FIS points are so close. … Because they were so close, we opted not to use discretion. It really wasn’t a fair way to do it. It’s obviously super exciting for the athletes that were on the right side of that cut and heartbreaking for those that [weren’t].”
All four of U.S. Nordic Combined’s A-team members were named to the Olympic team, which maximized its quota of four. The team includes Olympic veterans Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong and Taylor Fletcher, as well as Fletcher’s older brother, Bryan Fletcher, who narrowly missed qualifying for his first Olympics in 2010.
Lodwick has spent the last 10 days in Park City, Utah, rehabbing a dislocated shoulder and humerus fracture he sustained in a jumping accident in France. Head coach Dave Jarrett said he is focusing on recovering in time for the team event.
“There’s one thing that he really wants is another medal at the Olympics, more than being a six-time Olympian,” Jarrett said of Lodwick. “We feel that if anyone can recover from injury, Todd can do it. We’re looking to maximize his recovery in every way possible.”
The U.S. had hoped to secure the maximum of five Olympic spots, but were just outside the top-55 cutoff based on World Cup standings from the last calendar year to Jan. 19. Bryan Fletcher led the team in 11th in the World Cup rankings through that point, Demong was 22nd, Taylor Fletcher 27th and Lodwick 52nd. The team had hoped to get one of their B-teamers, such as Brett Denney, to the Olympics as well, but Denney was unable to score World Cup points to make the overall standings (he could have been selected if the total number of 55 athletes was not met based on World Cup points and defaulted to Continental Cup standings.)
“It was gonna be razor thin,” Jarrett said. “At the end of the qualification period, the spot Johnny [Spillane, now retired] scored points in last year wasn’t enough to qualify … [and] none of our B-team guys have scored World Cup points. We were 56th and they took 55. It’s just the way that it shook out.”
The 2014 Olympics are likely to be the last for both Lodwick and Demong. “Between Bill, Johnny and Todd, there’s gonna be a big [void] that needs to be filled,” Jarrett said, adding that the Fletcher brothers have already made huge strides in their footsteps.
2014 OLYMPIC CROSS COUNTRY NOMINATIONS
Men’s Cross Country
Erik Bjornsen, Winthrop, WA (7/14/1991)
Brian Gregg, Winthrop, WA (6/27/1984)
Kris Freeman, Concord, NH (10/14/1980) *
Simi Hamilton, Aspen, CO (5/14/1987) *
Noah Hoffman, Aspen, CO (8/1/1989)
Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA (7/19/1980) *
Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT (11/30/1983) *
Women’s Cross Country
Sadie Bjornsen, Winthrop, WA (11/21/1989)
Holly Brooks, Anchorage (4/17/1982) *
Sophie Caldwell, Peru, VT (3/22/1990)
Jessie Diggins, Afton, MN (8/26/1991)
Kikkan Randall, Anchorage (12/31/1982) *
Ida Sargent, Orleans, VT (1/25/1988)
Liz Stephen, East Montpelier, VT (1/12/1987) *
2014 OLYMPIC NORDIC COMBINED NOMINATIONS
Billy Demong, Vermontville, NY (3/29/1980) *
Todd Lodwick, Steamboat Springs, CO (11/21/1976) *
Bryan Fletcher, Steamboat Springs, CO (6/27/1986)
Taylor Fletcher, Steamboat Springs, CO (8/11/1990) *
* Competed in past Olympics