Four time Olympian Nina Kemppel of Anchorage, Alaska was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Thursday. The induction ceremony was held in the Conoco/Phillips atrium in downtown Anchorage. Although there was no sign of the state’s well known sitting Governor, the event was a “who’s-who of Alaska” affair, including former Governors and Anchorage Mayors as well as several prominent local athletes.
Each inductee was introduced by former Mayor Rick Mystrom, and a video was played on a large projection screen to describe each athlete’s career and achievements. Nina Kemppel’s video was marked by a lifetime of aspirations and support from her parents.
“One day when I was a little kid I just sat my parents down and told them I wanted to go to the Olympics,” Kemppel described in her induction speech. “I’m sure it seemed crazy, because back then I was getting last place in all of my ski races. But, they said OK, well, that’s a long way off and a lot of work, but if you want to do it we’ll support you.”
In Nina’s 13 year career she won 18 national cross country titles and attended four winter Olympics, setting new standards for American women skiers along the way. She finished 15th place in the 30K classic at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, the highest Olympic finish at the time by an American women. She also became the first woman to place in the top 20 for a World Cup race, and then also the first to break the top 15.
Nina was also a local mountain running legend, and hero for aspiring female athletes. She won Mount Marathon, Alaska’s most prestigious foot race, nine times – eight of wich were consecutive wins. No other man or woman has ever achieved such success in the famous race.
Hilary Lindh was also inducted into the hall of fame for her incredible career as a downhill ski racer. The following description of Hilary’s accomplishments comes from the ASHOF site:
“Hilary Lindh, Olympic Silver Medalist from Juneau. Lindh was only 14 years old when she joined the United States Ski Team and by 16, she became the first American to win a World Junior Championships downhill title. Her silver medal in the downhill at Albertsville was the pinnacle moment of her skiing career but her resume also includes a downhill gold medal at the World Championships in Sestrier, Italy in 1997. Lindh earned three World Cup victories, five podiums and 27 top-ten finishes during her storied 11-year World Cup career.”