Sadie Bjornsen from Winthrop, Wash., competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics, but she has an excellent chance to become the first U.S. woman to medal in cross-country at the upcoming Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Bjornsen, 28, has been a member of the U.S. Ski Team for six years and has gradually climbed the ladder each year towards being one of the best cross-country skiers in the world.
"There is no perfect way, there's every way. Everyone has their own way, and it's not only going to be up. There are going to be lots of swings. You're going to fall down more times then you get up sometimes," Bjornsen said.
Bjornsen knows that first hand. Seven years ago, she started skiing for the University of Alaska with dreams of making the 2010 Olympic team in Vancouver. She missed the cut.
She transferred to Alaska Pacific University to get a fresh start. That's where she met Kikkan Randall.
"When I started to realize that I wasn't on the path to this Olympic dream, I decided to transfer across the street to APU and right away Kikkan took me in, put me under her wings and showed me all her cards. Showed me all the things she was strong at, all the lessons she had learned, all the hardships she's gone through," Bjornsen said.
Randall is notably the best U-S women's cross country skier of all time. She's a four-time Olympian who became the first American women to win a gold medal at the world championships. She's a 17-time U.S. national champion who's gearing up for her fifth Olympic games. And while she's enjoyed the individual accolades, Randall has loved watching young skiers like Bjornsen come so far.
"We've been training together for I think six years now, and I can't believe that much time has gone by, butf I look back, every year, her consistency has just gotten stronger and stronger," Randall said.
"When I finish 50th place, she consistently reminds me, 'Sadie I got 50th place 100 times before I got first. Keep your head up. Keep your head up thru everything,'" Bjornsen said.
"I remember the first team sprint we did together on the World Cup in Dusseldorf. She was so nervous. She couldn't hardly keep her food down, and she was bouncing off the walls. And now she is that poised veteran. She knows how to get into that World Cup field and mix it up," Randall said.
At the World Cup in Finland last week, Bjornsen's hard work paid off by finishing second.
It's an individual best for Bjornsen, and Randall says it's only the beginning.
"She's set her goals higher and higher and I'm totally confident that Sadie along with some other members of our team are going to set the bar far higher than what I've been able to achieve," Randall said.
"I think of her as an incredible part of where U.S. skiing is right now, but also such an incredible, inspiring leader, that I look up to and aspire to be one day and so it's been pretty lucky to have her around," Bjornsen said.
Bjornsen's brother, Erik, finished 26th in Finland, making him the highest U.S. men's finisher.
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