Aspen’s Hamilton earns spot on Olympic cross country team
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – In meetings all day Thursday in Denver, Ruthie Brown missed a call from her son Simi Hamilton.
When she finally listened to her voicemail on the drive back to Aspen, Brown had to pull off the highway.
“I got out of the car and was jumping up and down and yelling ‘He made it! He made it!'” Brown gushed.
He made it. The U.S. cross country team on Thursday selected the 22-year-old Hamilton to compete in the upcoming Winter Olympics. The sprint specialist was added to the now 11-athlete squad after the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association was granted one final spot because of a new quota system.
Hamilton, currently competing in the U23 World Championships in Germany, was not available for comment.
“I’m sure we’ll get a call in the middle of the night. It’s one I’ll happily take,” Brown said. “I’ll say to him [that] it’s been a long road, we’re so happy for him and that we love him.”
Hamilton, an Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club alum, bolstered his chances of securing an Olympic berth with a strong showing at the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships earlier this month in Anchorage, Alaska. He captured a sprint national title and finished 10th in the 15-kilometer freestyle.
Tuesday, he won a sprint qualification race in Hinterzarten, Germany, by nearly a second.
“Simi had an incredible race today … the best for an American at the U23 World Championships since 2003 when Kris Freeman won,” fellow Aspenite and U.S. U23 team member Noah Hoffman wrote in an e-mail to The Aspen Times earlier this week. “… Simi proved today that he is a world-class sprinter.”
Hamilton has won four qualifiers in SuperTour, Canadian NorAm and U.S. Championship events this season. Not bad for an athlete who raced sparingly during the past four years, when he was an All-American at Middlebury College in Vermont.
“That’s the remarkable part of this. He’s competing against full-time athletes with years of full-time skiing under their belt,” said Brown, who coached her son for 18 years. “Last year, Simi was writing his senior thesis in geology. He’s explained it a million times, but I still don’t understand what he was trying to do.
“It was an unbelievable juggle, with geology and making the Olympic team in the same year. … He’s one of a kind, that boy.”
In an interview with The Times in early January, Hamilton said an Olympic berth “would pretty much be the most incredible thing ever.”
The U.S. contingent is happy to have him.
“Simi has definitely raised some eyebrows this season with his pure speed in the sprint events,” said cross country head coach Pete Vordenberg said in a USSA news release. “He is a talented young athlete who will be a great addition to the Olympic team.”
Brown will be in Vancouver and cannot wait to share in the moment.
But first, she’s looking forward to Thursday’s special reunion with her son at the next World Cup stop in Canmore, Alberta.
“I know exactly what will happen,” she said. “He’ll tackle me, we’ll both go the ground, and we’ll both be crying.”
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American giant slalom stud Ted Ligety won six times at Birds of Prey, be it five World Cups and/or gold in the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, but we have to remember what a struggle it was for him to get there.