A 19-year-old Anchorage athlete did something Monday that’s never been done before: He became the first American man to win a race at the World Junior Championships of cross-country skiing.
Gus Schumacher won the 10-kilometer, classic technique race at a series of competitions in Germany for skiers 20 years old and under.
He was 4 seconds behind a German skier with just 1.5 kilometers left in the race, but made up the time and won the race by 4.5 seconds.
Schumacher told the skiing website FasterSkier.com that he’s been eyeing a podium finish since the previous winter.
“Last year, I had written at the top of my training log: ‘junior worlds medal.’ And this year, in black and white: ‘Win world juniors.’ So I’ve been staring at that.”
Schumacher’s finish was one of several impressive American results at the championships Monday. And after decades of American men struggling at the international level, other U.S. juniors have also been showing signs of promise in recent years.
Luke Jager, 20, who grew up in Anchorage and now attends the University of Utah, finished 10th Monday, and he teamed up with Schumacher last year to win a gold medal for the U.S. in the relay.
On an episode of Outdoor Explorer last year, Schumacher said that young American skiers have been inspired by the older racers training alongside them, like Anchorage’s Sadie Bjornsen, who’s seen top results on the World Cup circuit.
“It’s easier to have success when you’ve seen other people from your area doing the same things have success,” Schumacher said. “Like, you see Sadie training, it’s the same stuff you’re doing, and when she gets a podium at the World Cup, it makes it seem a lot more attainable.”
Racing at the junior championships continues later this week.