Basalt’s Hailey Swirbul officially named to the U.S. Olympic cross-country ski team |

Basalt’s Hailey Swirbul officially named to the U.S. Olympic cross-country ski team

Hailey Swirbul poses on Dec. 27, 2019, in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Basalt’s Hailey Swirbul was officially named to the U.S. cross-country ski team for the upcoming Winter Olympics in China. The 23-year-old will be a first-time Olympian and joins seven other women on the team that was announced Thursday by U.S. Ski and Snowboard.

“More than anything, I feel honored to represent my country on the world stage at the Olympics,” Swirbul said in the official news release. “I have dreamed of the opportunity to do this since I was a kid and it hasn’t totally set in for me yet. I think it won’t feel real to me until we actually arrive in Zhangjiakou. I am really looking forward to finishing my preparations knowing I am ready to fight with everything I have out on the race courses. Going into my first Olympics, I’m not sure what to expect, but I am going to try to stay true to myself and do what I know how to do.”

Swirbul, a former Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athlete, is a second-year member of the A team and is in her fourth season overall as part of the national squad. Her first World Cup start came as recently as January 2019 in Dresden, Germany. Her first and to date only podium finish came on Dec. 13, 2020, in Davos, Switzerland. She also started in the world championships last February and finished fourth there as part of a four-person relay team.

Entering the weekend, Swirbul ranked No. 38 in the overall World Cup standings; she’s 23rd in distance and 39th in sprint.

A strong skier at altitude, Swirbul could have an advantage as the Olympic course in China is pushing the boundary of what is typically seen in World Cup cross-country skiing with a high elevation similar to that of the Soldier Hollow course in Utah, which hosted the 2002 Olympics.

The rest of the U.S. women’s Olympic team is led by reigning overall World Cup champion Jessie Diggins of Minnesota. The 30-year-old is headed to her third Olympic Games. At the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, she partnered with the since-retired Kikkan Randall to win the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in the sport. Diggins is currently third in the overall World Cup standings.

“I’m honored and excited to be representing my country once more as a member of the 2022 Olympic team,” Diggins said in the news release. “This will be my third Olympics and I’m so proud of all the hard work and dedication from all our athletes to make this team. I’m also incredibly thankful for the support from so many people who have helped me prepare for the Games! I won’t be racing for just myself out there.”

Also going to Beijing are Utah’s Rosie Brennan, Massachusetts’ Julia Kern, Maine’s Sophia Laukli, Washington’s Novie McCabe, California’s Hannah Halvorsen and Vermont’s Caitlin Patterson.

Basalt’s Hailey Swirbul, right, competes during the women's 4x5-kilometer relay race on March 4, 2021, at the world championships in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Matthias Schrader/AP

The U.S. men’s Olympic cross-country ski team is made of California’s JC Schoonmaker, Wisconsin’s Kevin Bolger, Vermont’s Ben Ogden and the Alaskan threesome of Luke Jager, Gus Schumacher and Scott Patterson. Five of the six men are first-time Olympians; only Patterson competed at the 2018 Games.

The 2018 men’s Olympic team included Aspen’s own Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman, both of whom have since retired.

“I really have to stop and give myself some credit because it’s a lifelong dream coming to fruition, but at the same time my goals keep coming, and just making the team isn’t the end of the road,” Schumacher said in the news release. “I wanna race fast! But overall I’m very excited for the opportunity to represent the U.S. on the highest level in my sport.”

The first Olympic cross-country ski event is scheduled for Feb. 5, the women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon. The men’s 30k skiathlon follows the next day.

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