Athletes with ties to the Northwest won three gold and two silver medals at the Winter Olympics that just wrapped up in Russia. If Idaho, Oregon and Washington were a separate country, we’d be right behind Poland and tied with Finland on the medal table.
At the Sochi Games, Northwest athletes won medals in snowboarding, women’s hockey, and short track speedskating. The strongest events and results were similar to 2010, when athletes from our region brought home three silvers and four bronze from Vancouver.
However this time around, the most successful Northwest native was not on Team USA. In Sochi, alpine snowboarder Vic Wild won gold twice for Russia, his new nationality by marriage.
Wild grew up in White Salmon, Wash., and learned to snowboard at Mount Hood Meadows. In 2011, he switched from the U.S. National Team to the Russian snowboarding squad due to perceived lack of support from the Americans for his particular event.
On Saturday, after Wild won the gold medal in parallel slalom, he received congratulations from both Russian President Vladimir Putin and his former American team managers.
A statement from the U.S. snowboard team betrayed no hard feelings. “Vic found a very unique opportunity with Russia in the lead up to Sochi and took advantage of it,” said Luke Bodensteiner, the executive VP of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “Good for him and we respect his decision.”
Other Northwest athletes in Sochi represented Australia, Peru and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
At the next Winter Olympics in South Korea, there could be even more diversity coming from here. This according to Cascade Winter Sports Club director and head coach Paul Tollefson, who specifically mentioned a family from the Portland area, the Macedos.
“A unique opportunity could exist at the 2018 Games when Michel, Tobias and their younger sister Clara are all potentially old enough to race at the Olympics and could potentially represent Brazil,” Tollefson said.
Tollefson also touted another promising skier on the Mount Hood-based race team who could become the first Winter Olympian for Afghanistan. Fourteen-year-old Cole Sher-Jen was born in America, lives in Lake Oswego, Ore., but could represent the Asian nation because his dad is Afghan.
Here now is how all of the Northwest athletes in Sochi fared:
T.J. Oshie - Ice hockey
Oshie and his U.S. Olympic men’s hockey teammates are returning home empty-handed after suffering a 5-0 drubbing in the bronze medal game on Saturday. Earlier in the Sochi Games, Oshie was responsible for one of the highlights of the entire tournament when he scored the deciding shootout goal in a preliminary game between Team USA and Russia. Oshie is currently an NHL star with St. Louis, but the Everett, Washington-raised forward originally got his start playing in the Seattle Junior Hockey Association.
Nick Cunningham - Bobsledding
Former Boise State University track team captain Nick Cunningham piloted two-man and four-man bobsleds for Team USA. In the two-man competition a week ago, Cunningham’s sled finished in 12th place out of twenty teams. Cunningham was again at the controls during the four-man competition this Saturday and Sunday. And again, his USA-2 bobsled finished in 12th place. His teammates in USA-1, nicknamed the “Night Train,” took the bronze.
Angeli VanLaanen - Freestyle skiing
VanLaanen fell in the final and finished 11th in the debut of ski halfpipe at the Olympics on Thursday. In some respects, it was victory enough for the 28-year-old Bellingham, Wash., native just to be in Sochi. VanLaanen endured a nearly three year hiatus from competition and training for treatment of Lyme disease during her mid-twenties.
Amy Sheehan - Freestyle skiing
Sheehan, a recent transplant to Wenatchee, Wash., finished tenth in the debut of ski halfpipe at the Olympics. That placed her one spot ahead of her home state compatriot VanLaanen, but they are not teammates. Sheehan competed for her native Australia.
Vic Wild - Snowboarding
This American-born, former Columbia River Gorge resident won gold for Russia twice - first in the parallel giant slalom event last Wednesday and again on Saturday in the parallel slalom. Wild took Russian citizenship after marrying Russia’s top alpine snowboarder in 2011. The 27-year-old learned his sport at the Mount Hood Meadows ski area.
Jasmine Campbell - Alpine skiing
The Sun Valley ski team product finished 43rd out of 60 starters in Friday’s slalom event. Campbell’s combined time for two runs was more than 25 seconds behind American gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin. On Tuesday, Campbell - a Whitman College student - finished in 56th place out of 75 starters in the giant slalom. Campbell competed for the U.S. Virgin Islands, which is where she was born.
Nate Holland - Snowboarding
After finishing a frustrating fourth at the 2010 Vancouver Games, Holland vowed to return to seek redemption - and a medal - in the next Olympics. But it was not to be. In the always chaotic event of snowboardcross, Holland slipped on a bump and skidded out of contention in the preliminary round on Feb. 18. The 35-year-old was born and raised in Sandpoint, Idaho and still returns there every summer to run a seasonal water sports business with his brother.
Sadie Bjornsen - Cross country skiing
Bjornsen raced in three cross country events at her first Olympics. She made up ground after the U.S. women’s relay team got off to a slow start in the 4x5km relay on Feb. 15. Earlier, the 24-year-old had the best U.S. finish in the women’s 10 kilometer classic race held on Feb. 13. She placed 18th. Bjornsen finished in 31st place in her kickoff race, the women’s skiathlon on Feb. 8. Sadie is the older half of a sibling duo from Washington’s Methow Valley.
Erik Bjornsen - Cross country skiing
Bjornsen has kept busy at the Laura Cross-Country Ski Center. On Wednesday, he anchored the two-man, classic-style team sprint to a strong sixth place finish. Bjornsen also skied a segment in the men’s 4 x 10km relay on Feb. 16, in which Team USA finished in 11th place. On Feb. 14, the younger half of the Mazama, Wash., sibling duo finished in 38th place in the slushy 15 kilometer race. On Feb. 11, Bjornsen finished 39th in the men’s individual sprints. At the beginning of the Sochi Games, he placed 42nd in the skiathlon (15km classic + 15km freestyle on Feb. 9).
Brian Gregg - Cross country skiing
Gregg has finished in 47th place twice, first in the in the skiathlon on Feb. 9 and then again in the 15 kilometer race on Feb. 14. The distance racing specialist, who was born and raised in Winthrop, Wash., skied into 51st place in the 50km freestyle race on the final day of the Sochi Games.
Roberto Carcelen - Cross country skiing
Carcelen sustained several bruised or broken ribs in a ski crash during training in Austria in mid-January. The lingering effects probably contributed to the Peruvian-American’s last place finish in his only 2014 Olympic race, the men’s 15 kilometer event on Feb. 14. The Swiss winner of the race stuck around at the finish line for more than half an hour in order to congratulate Carcelen on his gutsy performance - a fitting display of Olympic spirit on both sides. Carcelen raced for Peru, whose flag the Seattle-based e-commerce consultant carried in the Opening Ceremony.
Holly Brooks - Cross country skiing
Brooks raced three times, in these her second Olympics. She finished in 47th place in the women’s skiathlon on Feb. 8. Then she improved to 35th in the women’s 10 km classic event on Feb. 13. Her final event was the 30km freestyle distance race on Saturday, in which placed 27th. This 31-year-old Seattle native (now living in Anchorage) learned to ski at Snoqualmie Pass.
Christian Niccum - Doubles luge
Niccum, of Woodinville, Wash., finished in 11th place in the doubles competition on Feb. 12. The three-time Olympic slider was paired with Jayson Terdiman. On Feb. 13, that combo had the seventh fastest time in the doubles portion of the team relay event, in which Team USA finished sixth overall. The relay ride was probably the 36-year-old Niccum’s final Olympic appearance.
Kaitlyn Farrington - Snowboarding
Farrington beat three prior Olympic champions to win the gold medal in women’s snowboard halfpipe on Feb. 12. The 24-year-old self-described “cowgirl” from Bellevue, Idaho is a product of the Sun Valley ski and snowboard program. Farrington will be honored with a “community wide celebration” in the Wood River Valley on March 1st.
Jackie Wiles - Alpine skiing
The 21-year-old U.S. Ski Team rookie from Aurora, Ore., finished in 26th place in the women’s downhill. “There were some nerves today, but I feel like I channeled that into some good energy,” Wiles said in a team statement on Feb. 12. Wiles skied for the White Pass, Wash., racing team in her teens.
Hilary Knight - Ice hockey
Forward Hilary Knight of Sun Valley, Idaho and her teammates on the U.S. women’s hockey team are coming home with silver medals. Team USA fell to Canada 3-2 in an intense gold medal game that was decided in sudden death overtime. Last week in a preliminary game, Canada also edged the USA, 3-2. Knight scored the first goal of that game. Earlier, Knight chalked up a goal and an assist in an opening 3-1 victory over Finland and she contributed another goal and an assist in a subsequent 9-0 shutout of Switzerland.
Kent Callister - Snowboarding
Callister finished in ninth in the men’s halfpipe final on Feb. 11. That was the same event in which USA superstar Shaun White placed an inglorious fourth. Callister competed for Australia in Sochi and was the only Aussie in the men’s final. The teen from Bend, Ore., has dual American and Australian citizenship.
Sara Studebaker – Biathlon
The Boise native competed in four biathlon events, which combine cross country skiing and target shooting. On Feb. 9, Studebaker placed 44th in the 7.5km sprint. On Feb. 11, she finished further back - 51st in the women’s 10km pursuit. On Feb. 14, she missed four targets. The resulting time penalties knocked her back to 55th place in the 15 kilometer event. On Friday, Studebaker skied the third leg of the women’s 4 x 6km relay. Team USA’s seventh place finish was its best ever in that biathlon event.
Simi Hamilton – Cross country skiing
Hamilton teamed with Methow Valley, Washington’s Erik Bjornsen in the two-man, classic sprint relay on Wednesday. The pair finished in sixth place. The Sun Valley Olympic development team alumnus started his campaign in Sochi with a 27th place finish in the men’s individual sprint competition on Feb. 11. Last Sunday, he skied the final leg of the 4 x 10km relay in which Team USA finished 11th. These were Hamilton’s second Olympics.
Torin Koos – Cross country skiing
The four-time Olympian from Leavenworth, Wash., kicked off his racing in Sochi with the men’s individual sprint. Koos finished in 37th place. He was a late scratch from the closing cross country event, the 50km freestyle race.
Patrick Deneen - Freestyle skiing
The pride of Cle Elum, Wash., was edged out by the dominant Canadians in freestyle moguls. Deneen finished 6th in the moguls finals on Feb. 10. Still, the result was better than the crash he suffered in the finals of the 2010 Vancouver Games.
J.R. Celski - Short track speedskating
The Federal Way, Wash., native has added a silver medal to the two bronzes he won at the Vancouver Games in 2010. Celski anchored the U.S. short track speedskating team to a second place finish in the 5000-meter relay. Toward the beginning of the Sochi Games, Celski just missed a medal when he finished fourth in the men’s 1,500-meters. The 23-year-old did not advance to the medal round of the 1000 and 500-meter individual events.
Laurenne Ross - Alpine skiing
In the women’s Super-G event on Feb. 15, Ross did not finish the soft, rutted course. In a U.S. team statement, she said she harbors no regrets. “I came out there and gave it everything I had and stuff happens when you’re going for it.” Toward the beginning of these Olympics, Ross finished 11th in a women’s downhill that was most notable for producing an historic tie for first place. On Feb. 10, the 25-year-old U.S. Ski Team veteran from Bend, Ore., crashed and did not finish the super combined (a morning downhill followed by an afternoon slalom).
Jessika Jenson - Snowboarding
The Rigby, Idaho, snowboarder finished 14th in the debut of women’s slopestyle at the Olympic Games.
Erik Fisher - alpine skiing
Fisher has been named to the U.S. Olympic Team twice, but in an unfortunate twist, the Boise resident did not get to compete either time. In 2010, a broken wrist suffered shortly before the Vancouver Games laid him up. In Sochi he made several downhill training runs, but was left on the bench when the U.S. team coaches selected starters for the medal event.
The Sochi Games unfolded from February 7-23.