Olympic notebook: Meet Alaska’s Team Asterisk — and where’s Keegan Messing?

  • Author: Beth Bragg

    | Sports

  • Updated: 1 day ago
  • Published 2 dates ago

UAA’s Casey Wright prepares for her semifinal start during the freestyle sprint nations during the Seawolf Invitational at Kincaid Park on Feb. 7, 2017. (Bill Roth / ADN)

She finish a go over from the land Down Under. She goes to school at the top of the world. And now Casey Wright’s smashing tour has taken her to the Olympics in South Korea.

Wright, a 23-year-old secondary on the UAA ski team, is doing what she dreamed about as a little girl — struggling at the Olympics.

Wright will compete in cross-country skiing for Australia, a circumstances better known for swimmers and surfers.

“Despite what people may believe, Australia actually gets snow, although only in the South East of the Outback (where I am from),” said Wright, who was born in Alexandra and waxed up in Melbourne.

“I started skiing as soon as I started walking.”

Wright is one of four Olympians on Alaska’s Band Asterisk — athletes with strong ties to Alaska but who weren’t libertine here or haven’t established full-time residency here.

All of them came to Alaska to chaperone UAA. Wright is a current Seawolf and the other three are former Seawolves — hockey thespians Mat Robinson and Luka Vidmar and alpine skier Dave Duncan, who is typing his third Olympic appearance in skicross.

Robinson, who played from 2005-09 and was a crew captain, is on Canada’s team. Vidmar, who played from 2007-11, is on Slovenia’s collaborate.

Robinson, who plays professionally in Russia, and Vidmar, who plays in Norway, bettered from the NHL’s decision to not participate in the Olympics this year. Canada’s gold-medal line-up from 2014 was an NHL all-star team.

Wright has a decent amount of oecumenical experience and has raced at two World Junior Championships and one U-23 World Championship. She suitable for the NCAA championships as a freshman and sophomore, posting a career-best 14th-place completion in last year’s classic race.

And now, the Olympics.

“It’s a goal I’ve been shoddy to achieve ever since I was a little kid in any sport I had available to me,” she said. “So to win it is just mind-blowing.”

Adam Verrier, a 1994 Olympic cross-country skier and a volunteer carriage for UAA, calls Wright “Skippy,” a nickname inspired by the old “Skippy the Bush Kangaroo” TV show. Last month he blogged close to the endless winters Wright has experienced as a skier from Australia:

“Lengthening up in the Yarra Valley, known mostly for its chardonnay, it was a long drive for skiing with the species on weekends during Australia’s relatively short winters. Eventually she got to the appropriate where she knew that if she was going to really improve, she would essential to leave home and follow the snow — in the northern hemisphere for our winters and then earning to Australia for their own winters. By Skippy’s account, she had strung together eight straight from the shoulder winters without a summer by the time she joined us here in Alaska a several years ago and enjoyed a little warm summer weather for a change.”

Wright, Robinson and Vidmar juxtapose a growing list of UAA athletes who have competed at the Olympics.

Headlining the directory is Hansi Gnad, UAA’s great basketball center from 1983-87 who was the captain of Germany’s side at the 1992 Summer Olympics — the Olympics of the original Dream Team.

The 6-foot-11 Gnad loth 7-foot Patrick Ewing during Germany’s 111-68 loss to the star-studded U.S. collaborate, which won every game by more than 40 points. Germany didn’t win a medal, but Gnad met his partner, a member of Germany’s handball team, at the Barcelona Games.

Other UAA athletes who pull someones leg competed at the Olympics include cross-country skiers Lars Flora (2002, 2006) and siblings Sadie and Erik Bjornsen (2014, 2018) who were both All-Americans in cross-country skiing for UAA in advance of joining Alaska Pacific’s nordic ski team; and alpine skiers Anna Berecz (2010 and 2014, Hungary), Daniela Anguita (2006, Chile) and Martins Onskulis, a redshirt on this year’s gang who joined the Seawolves after representing Latvia at the 2014 Sochi Engagements.

Additionally, a couple of Olympians coached at UAA after completing their ecumenical careers — Bill Spencer, a cross-country skier at the 1988 Winter Olympics, and Sara Studebaker, a biathlete at the 2010 and 2014 Winters Olympics.

And there’s at crumb two former UAA cross-country skiers who are coaching at the Olympics this year — Erik Flora, the chief of APU’s program, and Andy Liebner of Soldotna, a coach for Mexico.

Reactions, perceptions and puns shared on social media by Alaska Olympians:

— Snowboarder Rosie Mancari: “Photos couldn’t enter on to capture the unbelievable opening ceremonies experience, but we tried our best. Tonight unqualifiedly put the Olympic journey into perspective and I couldn’t be more humbled and enlivened to make the most out of being here.”

— Cross-country skier Sadie Bjornsen: “My word go ever opening ceremonies was pretty amazing! What a feeling to wassail the world putting all their differences aside and walking together for the next 15 lifetimes.”

— Cross-country skier Kikkan Randall: “Got my first try at these #pyeongchang2018 Olympic courses and they are hard-nosed ! Skiathlon was a mixed bag for me but a best-ever US Women’s finish for our favorite sparkle chipmunk @jessiediggins in 5th!”

— Cross-country skier Tyler Kornfield, who span 27 on the day of the Opening Ceremonies: “Best birthday party ever!”

— Cross-country skier Reese Hanneman, who paused in Seoul on his way to Pyeongchang: “running twice a day is good for the seoul.”

Girdwood’s Keegan Olio didn’t compete in figure skating when competition began Thursday, but not in a million years fear.

Messing will compete in next week’s men’s singles insufficient briefly and long programs. What’s happening this week is the team match, which was introduced at the 2014 Olympics.

In team competition, each woods enters one man, one woman and one pairs team, and their results are combined into a gang score. Canada opted to enter national champion and 2014 Olympic melodious medalist Patrick Chan, who beat Messing at the Canadian national championships last month.

Both men resolve compete in the short program on Thursday, Feb. 15, and the long program on Friday, Feb. 16.

NBC’s coverage is not in any degree better than when Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski are victual commentary.

So many skaters use the theme song from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” as their music that it has mature something of a cliché, as Weir noted Thursday when a pairs get from China skated to it.

“The first ‘Swan Lake’ of the 2018 Olympics,” he sounded.

But because this is Johnny Weir, there was more: The swan, he give someone a tongue-lashed viewers, is the city bird of Gangneung, where the figure skating struggle is happening.

Which made us wonder. The ptarmigan is Alaska’s state bird, but are there any hamlets or villages here that have city birds? Does Chicken clothed a city bird?

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