Over the weekend, Alaskans had their last chance to say goodbye to the state’s Olympians – and prospective Olympians – before they start their seasons…and eventually head to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Olympic Games.
A light layer of snow covered the ground – fitting for the occasion – as Alaska’s Olympians and Olympic hopefuls strolled into Anchorage’s town square to the cheers of supporters gathered to give the athletes an enthusiastic send-off.
Nordic skier Holly Brooks, who competed in the 2010 Games in Vancouver, says despite Alaska being so large and its population so spread out, it still manages to remain a very close-knit community.
“Alaskans really get behind their Olympians and their athletes, and we really feel a lot of support from the community,” Brooks said. “So, it’s pretty special.”
Kikkan Randall, who will be competing in her fourth Olympic Games, says events where community members get a chance to chat with their Olympians are important because, when she was younger, those events inspired her Olympic dreams.
“I mean, I remember when Tommy Moe won the gold medal in Lilyhammer and came back and signed posters at the Alaska Club,” Randall said. “I remember when Nina Kemppel signed a poster for me when I was 10-years-old at the Gold Nugget Triathlon.”
Since then, Randall has become a source of inspiration for Alaska’s next generation of Olympians. Along the way, she’s earned the support of the community and she says that means a lot.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that so many people in this community have helped me get to where I am today,” Randall said. “So, to really just be able to celebrate that one more time and capture all this great energy so that we can take it with us on the road.”
Both Brooks and Randall leave later this week for Europe and the World Cup circuit, which starts in about two weeks. Randall says it will be an extremely hectic schedule from now through the end of the Olympics.
“We race the World Cup up until four days before the opening ceremonies,” Randall said. “So, we literally go to Munich, pack away our U.S. Ski Team stuff, grab our Olympic stuff and head over to Sochi, and then we just hit the ground running once we’re there.”
The 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia start on February 7-23.