Sadie Bjornsen began skiing and racing with her siblings Erik and Kaley when she was six in her homestate of Washington. Encouraged by Jim Bishop, a family friend and coach of former Olympian Becki Scott, Bjornsen developed a love of endurance sports, including running and biking as well as skiing. When Bjornsen chose to focus on skiing in her freshman year of high school, she quickly became one of the most competitive junior skiers at the national level.
In 2005 Bjornsen placed 15th in the Skate Sprint at World Juniors and 5th in the Skate Sprint at U.S. Nationals. In 2007 she was the top junior in every race at U.S. Nationals. Currently, Bjornsen is skiing for the University of Alaska at Anchorage and working on balancing her training with the many demands of college life. She hopes to race through her mid-twenties and early thirties, potentially for the U.S. Olympic Team, and then pursue a career in accounting and coaching. When Bjornsen is not skiing, she enjoys water polo at UAA.
Hometown: Winthrop, Washington
Current Residence: Anchorage, Alaska (University of Alaska, Anchorage)
Ski Club: Methow Valley Ski Team, UAA
Best Results: Junior Worlds- 15th Skate Sprint (2005). US Nationals- 5th Skate Sprint. Top Junior in every race (2007)
Sponsors: Fischer Skis. Swix Poles. Salomon Boots
When did you start ski racing, and what were some highlights of your young skiing career?
I started ski racing at a very young age, about six years old. Our family would travel all over the region with my siblings, Erik and Kaley, and I would race like a mini team. I remember in races, Erik and I would be the designated blockers for Kaley, so that she wouldn’t get knocked down in the starts. We would lead, and then let her pass us at the end. It was always so much fun because we would get so into it. I learned at a very young age how to ski a race with some teammates.
Who has been the most influential person for you, whether as a skier or a person?
At a very young age I met a family that became a huge part of my life. The Bishops started visiting the Methow for every big holiday. When they came, we would always go for long runs, skis, bike rides, or something outdoors. Jim used to race, along with his children that are now grown, and he also coached Becki Scott as a junior along with many other skiers. As I have developed, Becki has always been my hero. The fact that Jim had coached her made this person so much more real to me. Jim Bishop has always been very encouraging, and motivating. He is a very talented, intelligent, caring person that I look up to. Since the day I met him, he has been so encouraging and helpful in inspiring me reach my goals and dreams.
Where is your favorite place to ski, where is your favorite place to race, what is your favorite part of the season, what are your favorite ski conditions?
My favorite place to ski is the Methow Valley. Since I have moved to Anchorage, which also has nice skiing, I have realized how lucky I have been all my life skiing in the hundreds of perfectly groomed kilometers of trails back home. My favorite place to race is Soldier Hollow. It is a very difficult course, with the altitude and difficult terrain, but I love racing on it. Takes you to a whole new level of pain. My ultimate favorite skiing conditions are special blue classic skiing. There is nothing like hard kick and long glides to get you going.
What drives you to succeed at the highest possible level, and what are your long-term goals as a skier?
Ever since I was six years old I have wanted to go to the Olympics. I started out doing many other sports, but skiing was always my favorite sport. I have two siblings very close in age to me, so I was born competitive. Everything was a competition or a race between us. This mind set, and love of competition has transferred into my sports very nicely! When I ultimately picked skiing as my main sport, my freshman year in high school, my long term goal became, not only to participate in the Olympics and World Cups, but to do well, hopefully medal.
What are your favorite race formats/distances, and do you try to specialize for these events?
My favorite races are any individual start race. I have always trained on my own, and raced on my own. I come from a small region with not much competition, so I learned at a young age how to push myself. On any individual race, I feel I have most control over my race, so I can go hard when I need and want, allowing me to race a smart race. My favorite type of race at this point is sprint racing. I love to be as quick as I can, and enjoy how tight and competitive sprinting can get. Tactics are important, as well as every movement and second of the race.
What are your overall goals for this season?
I have made a hard shift into my freshman year of college. Many things have changed along with my training. With a new coach, and a new team, I took on an entirely new method of training. I don’t know what to expect for this year. My goals are to make World Juniors, and improve my results from the previous years. I also have many personal goals to learn to balance the college training, with the college life.
Do you have any consistent training partners? Do you prefer training alone or with others?
Ever since this fall I have trained on my own all the time. I train with my brother, but unless we have a very easy ski, he is a ways in front of me. For me, I like training alone better. This way I feel I have control over my own workout, and my own goals for each session. I am more focused on what I want to accomplish in the workout. I have learned how to push myself, so it is not always necessary to have somebody training beside me.
What is your favorite on snow workout and favorite dryland workout?
My favorite on snow workout is 30-30’s. 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 20-30 minutes. It has the same effect as doing 4×5 minutes or something else similar. In the 30 seconds rest, you are recovering, but your heart rate remains high. It makes you feel speedy and fast, while getting in some good training. My favorite dry land workout is working out is in the gym….checking out all the hot men! I also enjoy long mountain runs with my family.
What do you enjoy doing besides skiing?
I enjoy anything outdoors- swimming, biking, running, rock climbing, anything outside. I have terrible hand-eye coordination, so I try to avoid ball sports. I have recently found out here at UAA that I really enjoy water polo!
In terms of employment, are you a 100% full-time athlete, or do you have another job besides training/racing? If so, what do you do?
I would consider myself employed. I am going to college as a full time student, which takes a lot of time! I am a freshman at University of Alaska, Anchorage, so I have learned that going to college takes a lot of balancing and time management.
How long do you think you will ski at the elite level? What do you see yourself doing after you finish your ski career?
I am hoping I will be skiing until my late twenties, early thirties. That is normally the age of your peak career. I am now going to school for accounting, so hopefully I will be doing something in that area after skiing. I also would love to do some coaching. I have coached some younger kids back home, and realized I love working with children.
Do you or did you ever attend college? How did you make that decision?
I am attending college now, at University of Alaska Anchorage. There are not many other options to pick from coming out of high school. There is not enough support in the U.S. to just train and ski, so my only option was to go to college. I spent a long time on this decision. Trying to keep in mind my high goals; my family, my coach and I searched for possibilities, but were not able to find any realistic ways to make an ideal situation work out, so I came to the consensus I would try college a year at a time, and see if it works.
Do you enjoy racing/competing in other sports during the off-season? Did you play other sports as a kid? What are some of your favorite non-skiing competitions?
From a very young age, I competed in many sports including swimming, running, biking, and a small amount of soccer. I was always really competitive in anything I tried. I participated in a 23 mile mountain trail relay race for many years with family and friends the first week of May, which was always something to look forward to. Every once in a while, I will jump into a competition in one of these. It makes it fun to mix it up some.
What do you do with any spare time at training camps or on race trips?
Do my homework, sleep, eat, hit on the townies, make friends, watch world cup videos, call home… anything exciting.
What does your diet consist of? Do you have a favorite pre-race dinner and breakfast?
Lots of protein, carbs, fruits, veggies, my green seaweed drink, and some chocolate on special occasions. I am a vegetarian, so the one thing my diet doesn’t consist of is meat. My favorite pre-race dinner is any type of pasta. I LOVE pasta!
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I am terrified of the dark and I moved to Alaska!!
How do you spend your weeks off?
I spend time with my family, doing fun things other than training. I also try to make time for the people that I never have time for when I am training.
What is the best race or workout you have ever done?
My best race I have ever had was last year at Senior Nationals. In the 10 kilometer race, I skied the first 7k at a comfortable pace, nothing special. I was nearly 30 seconds back on the top junior. As I was coming down the hill before the last kilometer climb into the finish I was feeling dead tired, but all of a sudden I got this feeling. It felt like I had walked into another room I had never known about. I had a second wind. As I started skiing up that last long climb, knowing I had to make up lots of time, passing by my mother and coach, I realized I could push harder than I ever had. I no longer could feel anything. I crossed the line, collapsed having made up over a minute in the last kilometer. I felt what it was like to push beyond the pain, using every last bit of juice in my body.
What race events are in your plan for this season, and which race are you are looking forward to the most?
January- Senior Nationals
February- World Juniors
College races all throughout.