US to send 10 Alaskan cross-country skiers to 2018 Winter Olympics

Caitlin and Scott Patterson were among the ten Alaskan athletes named to the U.S. Olympic cross-country ski team. (Photo courtesy of Caitlin Patterson)

The U.S. Ski Team is taking ten Alaskan cross-country skiers to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea in February. Four skiers had pre-qualified for the Olympics –Kikkan Randall, Sadie and Erik Bjornsen and Rosie Brennan.

The rest of the team was announced Friday morning. Making their Olympic debut are Reese and Logan Hanneman from Fairbanks, Anchorage skiers Tyler Kornfield and Caitlin and Scott Patterson and Minnesota native turned Anchorage skier Rosie Frankowski.

Frankowski was flying from Anchorage to Vermont for ski races when she heard the news.

“I was shaking with excitement,” Frankowski said. Going to the Olympics was never really a dream of hers because, Frankowski said, it seemed so unrealistic. She knew she was behind Caitlin Patterson in the rankings and didn’t expect the U.S. Ski Team to add more than one woman to the Olympic team.

Frankowski says she was reminded of a scene in the movie, “Cool Runnings,” about the Jamaican bobsled team, when the coach tells the team that representing their country at the Olympics is the highest honor an athlete can have.

Caitlin and Scott Patterson had made their Olympic dream a near reality after their wins last month at U.S. Cross Country Nationals in Anchorage. Still, Caitlin said the announcement came as a shock.

“Right now the news is still sinking in and it’s hard to put to words what I feel, but I’m definitely looking forward to representing my country on the trails of Korea,” Caitlin Patterson said.

While their parents likely won’t be able to make the trip to PyeongChang, Caitlin’s brother Scott said he’s thrilled to have made the team with his sister.

“It is an honor to be selected for the U.S. Olympic team along with my sister and a strong contingent from Alaska,” Scott Patterson said. “I am looking forward to putting my best foot forward on the biggest stage available for cross-country skiing.”

Altogether, Alaska is sending three sets of siblings to the games — Erik and Sadie Bjornsen, Caitlin and Scott Patterson and Logan and Reese Hanneman.

Reese called the announcement an unimaginable dream that he couldn’t really put into words. He did say, though, that he and his brother, “are stoked to represent Fairbanks, Alaska and the United States on the world’s biggest stage!”

Hanneman said part of his success is due to his brother, Logan. “We have been competing against each other, in one sport or another, for our entire lives, and the brotherly competition and cooperation has undoubtedly propelled us to this point.”

The Hanneman brothers thought that if they had a chance to make the Olympic team only one of them would be chosen.

“Reese and I both knew that this year had the potential to create even more competitive tension between the two of us,” Logan Hanneman said, “as we were both competing for the same spot.”

So, Hanneman said, the announcement for him, his brother Reese, and their family in Fairbanks was “really, really special.”

The Hannemans’ APU teammate and Anchorage skier Tyler Kornfield said it was a whirlwind for him as well. He said it wouldn’t have been possible without the support from his community.

“I am so fortunate to live in such an amazing place with such a great community that can support so many Olympians,” Kornfield said.

All ten Olympic athletes from Alaska ski professionally for Alaska Pacific University. Another skier from APU, Jessica Yeaton, will ski for Australia’s cross-country ski team at the Olympics.

The 2018 Winter Olympics kick off in South Korea on Friday, February 9th.

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Emily Russell is the voice of Alaska morning news as Alaska Public Media’s Morning News Host and Producer. Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Emily moved to Alaska in 2012. She skied her way through three winters in Fairbanks, earning her Master’s degree in Northern Studies from UAF. Emily’s career in radio started in Nome in 2015, reporting for KNOM on everything from subsistence whale harvests to housing shortages in Native villages. She then worked for KCAW in Sitka, finally seeing what all the fuss with Southeast, Alaska was all about. Back on the road system, Emily is looking forward to driving her Subaru around the region to hike, hunt, fish and pick as many berries as possible. When she’s not talking into the mic in the morning, Emily can be found reporting from the peaks above Anchorage to the rivers around Southcentral.