Meet The 2022 U.S. Olympic Cross-Country Ski Team
by Peggy Shinn
That next challenge is the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. After a “rollercoaster” Tour de Ski — where she won two of six stages but finished eighth overall after getting knocked down in the classic sprint, then catching a cold — and a series of FIS World Cup cancellations, Diggins should be rested and focused by the time she arrives in China.
In Beijing, Diggins and two-time Olympian Rosie Brennan will lead a team of eight women and six men, ten of whom are making their Olympic debuts. But it won’t just be Diggins and Brennan vying for Olympic medals. The new generation of U.S. cross-country skiers is promising, with two of them already making it onto the world cup podium and others finishing in the top 10.
Here’s a look at the 14 cross-country skiers nominated to the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team.
Rosie Brennan poses for a portrait during the Team USA Beijing 2022 Olympic shoot on Sept. 12, 2021 in Irvine, Calif.
In December 2020, Rosie Brennan became the second U.S. woman ever to lead the FIS Cross-Country World Cup standings. She racked up her first world cup wins — in a sprint, then a 10k freestyle at the Davos World Cup, then held the world cup lead until the final day of the 2020/2021 Tour de Ski, an event in which she finished sixth overall.
Now 33, Brennan started out the 2022 Olympic season on fire again, making the podium in a world cup 10k freestyle and racking up a handful of fourth-place finishes. Brennan sat out this year’s Tour de Ski to prep for the upcoming Games at home, then won her fifth national title (in the 20km freestyle) at Soldier Hollow (site of the 2002 Olympic cross-country races). Originally from Park City, Utah, Brennan now lives in Anchorage, Alaska, and is part of the legendary Alaska Pacific University (APU) Nordic Ski Program. She excels at elevation — a good sign for the Beijing Games, with its mile-high cross-country ski courses.
Jessie Diggins has been a shining light on the U.S. cross-country ski team since her very first world cup races back in 2011. Two years later, she and Randall won the U.S. program’s first world championship gold medal when they claimed the team sprint title. Diggins followed that up with three more world championship medals in a variety of events (10k freestyle, individual sprint, and classic team sprint).
After her Olympic gold medal win Randall at the 2018 Games, along with her 2021 Tour de Ski win, and overall world cup title last year — and her book, Brave Enough, in which she opened up about an eating disorder — Diggins sealed her legend. She even began the Tour de Ski this season in the driver’s seat, until misfortune hit.
Originally from Afton, Minnesota, Diggins has trained with the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) Elite Team since 2012. Now 30 and engaged to be married, Diggins is a medal favorite in all six of the women’s races in Beijing. But her strongest event is likely the individual freestyle sprint. She also loves the team events (team sprint and women’s 4x5-kilometer relay) and will likely anchor both.
Caitlin Patterson knows how to persevere. A NCAA All-American cross-country skier while a student at the University of Vermont, Caitlin Patterson decided to put her civil engineering degree on the back burner while she pursued elite ski racing. Originally from Alaska, Patterson joined the Craftsbury Green Racing Project in northern Vermont, and four years later, in 2016, she won her first of nine national titles. She has competed in world cup races for a decade.
Patterson made the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team competing in PyeongChang where she finished 26th in the 30k classic mass start race and 34th in the skiathlon. Now 31, Patterson was named to her second Olympic team after winning two national titles in early January. Also a mountain runner, Patterson helped the U.S. win the overall team title at the 2017 World Mountain Running Championships.
Like older sister Caitlin, Scott Patterson attended the University of Vermont, majoring in mechanical engineering and math, scoring 13 wins and 19 podium finishes for the UVM Catamounts before graduating in 2014. Then he too pursued his Olympic and world cup dreams, but back in Alaska as part of the APU team. He made his world cup debut two years later, then his first Olympic team in 2018. A talented distance skier, Patterson finished 11th in the 50km classic race —the best finish ever by an American cross-country skier in this event. He was also the top American finisher in the skiathlon (18th) and the 15k freestyle (21st), and he competed as part of Team USA’s men’s cross-country 4x10km relay team.
Patterson, 29, made his second Olympic team after winning the 30k freestyle race at the 2022 U.S. national championships — his third national title — in early January. He is the only returning Olympian on the men’s squad this time around.
Sophia Laukli competes at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Oberstdorf on March 2, 2021 in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Julia Kern originally wanted to play basketball. It was a good sport for a kid who grew up outside Boston and only cross-country skied when she visited her grandparents in Germany (both Kerns’s parents are German). But freshman year in high school, she was injured and could not play basketball. Instead, she went to U.S. cross-country nationals and earned a spot on a junior U.S. team competing internationally. She had so much fun that she never looked back.
At the 2017 world junior championships, Kern made history when she, Hannah Halvorsen, Katharine Ogden, and Hailey Swirbul won a bronze medal in the team relay. It was the first relay medal won by U.S. junior skiers at a world championship. Since then, Kern, 24, has earned a U23 world championship bronze medal (2020) and two world cup podiums. The latest was in Dresden, Germany, in December 2021 when she finished second in a freestyle team sprint with Diggins.
Kern trains with the SMS Elite Team along with Jessie Diggins. A talented sprinter, look for Kern in the freestyle individual sprint, and then possibly, the team sprint. She also anchored the U.S. to fourth place in a 4x5km team relay in December and skied the second fastest final relay leg.
Hannah Halvorsen thought her career might be over after she was struck by a car as she crossed a street in Anchorage, Alaska, on November 1, 2019. Her injuries included two torn knee ligaments, fractured tibial plateau, whip lash that led to nagging neck and back issues, and a fractured skull. Doctors had to wait for swelling from traumatic brain injury to subside before performing surgery on her knee.
It was 11 months before Halvorsen returned to snow, and she wondered if she would ever reach her potential again. At 2017 junior world championships, Halvorsen was part of the U.S. women’s relay team that won a historic bronze medal. The next year, Halvorsen finished eighth in the junior world women’s sprint.
When she had recovered enough to return to racing, the world was in the middle of a global pandemic. Few domestic races were on the schedule. So rather than easing back into competition, Halvorsen dove back into world cup racing and scored her first world cup points in her second race back.
This season, Halvorsen, 23, kept up her momentum in world cup sprints. In mid-December, she finished seventh in a world cup sprint, then returned to Anchorage and the APU Nordic team to recover from a cold and to continue training.
Originally from Truckee, California, Halvorsen has been open about body image issues and eating disorder awareness.
A dual U.S. and Norwegian citizen, Sophie Laukli is a promising distance skier. Her father, Bjorn, is from Norway and was a cross-country skiing All-American for the University of Colorado in the early 1990s. From Yarmouth, Maine, Laukli won every high school race her senior year, then matriculated at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Her freshman year at Middlebury, she traveled abroad for the 2020 junior world championships and finished fifth in the 5k freestyle, then helped the U.S. women’s 4x3.3km relay win a silver medal. She returned to Vermont in time to compete at the 2020 NCAA championships, taking the runner-up spot in the 5km freestyle before the world shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Later in the spring, Laukli was named to the U.S. Ski Team’s development team.
Last winter, Laukli returned to Middlebury but traveled to Europe during J term (January) to make her world cup debut.
This year, Laukli transferred to the University of Utah, and she has continued to balance classes with more world cup racing. In early January, the 22-year-old shocked the Nordic world when she finished the grueling Alp Cermis stage of the Tour de Ski in fifth place (and 23rd overall in the Tour, the second ranked American behind Jessie Diggins). Laukli will be looking to gain experience at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
From the cross-country skiing wonderland of Washington State’s Methow Valley, 20-year-old Novie McCabe has Olympic cross-country skiing in her DNA. Her mom, Laura McCabe, competed in the 1994 and 1998 Olympic Winter Games, and after Novie was born, mom continued doing ski-walking intervals while carrying her baby on her back — with Novie panting in her ear, imitating mom’s heavy breathing.
With the athlete lifestyle ingrained and elite skiers in the valley to emulate (including two-time Olympian Sadie Bjornsen), McCabe grew up to be one of the nation’s top junior skiers. At the 2020 world junior championships, she finished ninth in the 15km freestyle, then anchored the U.S. women to a silver medal in the 4x3.3km relay. From those results, she was named to the 2019/2020 U.S. development team.
McCabe headed to the University of Utah in the fall of 2020, and her freshman year, she landed on the podium in every college race she entered, including two bronze-medal finishes at the NCAA championships.
Just 20 years old, McCabe made her world cup debut two months ago, and like teammate Laukli, had a stunning finish in the final stage of the Tour de Ski, taking seventh (and finishing her first Tour 24th overall). Also like Laukli, McCabe will gain valuable experience at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
Hailey Swirbul grew up in Aspen, Colorado, and was originally a mogul skier and mountain biker. Her older brother, Keegan, also mountain biked and convinced his younger sister to try cross-country skiing in the winter to stay aerobically fit for cycling (Keegan is now a pro road cyclist for the Rally Cycling Team). Hailey was about 10 years old at the time and that year, she finished on the podium in a cross-country race. She was good at the sport, she realized. So she stuck with it.
Fast forward eight years to 2017, and Swirbul helped the U.S. make history in the 4x3.3km relay at the world junior championships (along with Julia Kern, Hannah Halvorsen, and Katharine Ogden). A year later, Swirbul became the first U.S. woman to win two individual medals at junior world championships, taking a silver in the 5k classic and a bronze medal in skiathlon.
Last year, in only her second full season on the world cup, Swirbul earned her first podium, taking third in the 10k freestyle (behind teammate Brennan in first) — all while studying civil engineering at first the University of Alaska-Anchorage, then Alaska Pacific University where she trains with the APU team. Swirbul earned her bachelor’s degree in December 2021 so will be able to head to Beijing without her text books. A talented classic skier, Swirbul will likely be a valuable asset in the women’s distance races as well as the 4x5k relay.
Ben Ogden competes at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Oberstdorf on Feb. 27, 2021 in Oberstdorf, Germany.
On paper, 28-year-old Kevin Bolger looks like a late bloomer. He only made the U.S. Ski Team three years ago after winning his first national title in 2019 (in the classic sprint). But in high school, Bolger showed promise. He was a two-time state champion in Wisconsin. He then trained at the Sun Valley Education Foundation before attending the University of Utah from 2013-2017.
Back training in Sun Valley after college, Bolger made his world cup debut in March 2018, skiing all the way to the semifinals of a freestyle sprint. By the 2020 season, he was consistently making the sprint heats, and in December 2020, he qualified for his first world cup sprint final.
Bolger has spent the past couple summers training in Scandinavia (he is dating Swedish sprint star Maja Dahlqvist). Look for him in the sprint events in Beijing.
Raised on the cross-country ski trails in Anchorage, Alaska, Luke Jager showed his talent early. As a teenager, he racked up several junior national podium finishes and made three trips to the junior world championships, collecting three historic medals as part of the men’s 4x5km relay team in 2018, 2019, and 2020. His best individual finish at junior worlds was tenth place in the 10km classic race in 2020.
Jager is a member of APU’s Nordic elite team, but he also skis for the University of Utah, where he’s now a junior. Last winter, he competed in his first world cup race last January, then came home and scored a runner-up finish in the 10k classic race at the 2021 NCAA championships.
Now 22, Jager competed in the Period 1 world cup races, finishing in the points (18th) in the season’s first sprint race. Good at the classic technique, Jager could be named as one of the two competitors in the U.S.’s 2022 Olympic team sprint — a classic event this year.
Ben Ogden grew up in Landgrove, Vermont, the son of John Ogden, a former Middlebury College skier. John led the local youth Bill Koch League program and had his kids on cross-country skis early. With plenty of kids in the area to ski with, Ben thrived and became a top junior competitor.
As a student at the Stratton Mountain School (class of 2018), he made his first world championship team in 2018 and helped the U.S. men win a historic silver medal in the 4x5km relay. After graduating from SMS, he transitioned to the SMS Elite Team and continued training. At the next two junior world championships, he added more hardware, this time winning two gold medals in the men’s relay.
A talented sprinter, Ogden broke into the world cup points this year, making the heats in the season’s first classic sprint (and qualifying as high as fifth for sprints this season). But he is not just a sprinter. A mechanical engineering major at the University of Vermont, Ogden competes for the Catamounts and won the first college race of the season — a 20km freestyle. With his degree, he wants to one day build electric vehicles. But until then, the 21-year-old Vermonter has the Olympic Games in his sights.
Raised in Tahoe City, California, JC Schoonmaker got into cross-country skiing when he was young through his mom. But he didn’t really like the sport at first. His heart lay in alpine skiing. Until middle school when racing started. Then he was hooked.
But Schoonmaker’s talent did not fully show until college when he began training full time at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. By his junior year in 2019/2020, he made his first international team after winning the sprint qualifier at 2020 nationals, then finishing second in the junior 10km classic. Six days later, in Germany, he qualified for the sprint heats in his very first world cup. Six weeks later, he just missed making the sprint semifinals at world juniors, ending up 13th. He made it back to the U.S. in time for NCAA championships.
Since then, Schoonmaker has balanced attending school full-time, racing for the UAA Seawolves, and competing on the world cup tour. This season, the 21-year-old made sprint semifinals three times at world cup races, finishing as high as 7th. In early January, he won his first national title and hopes to be a factor in the men’s sprint in Beijing.
When Gus Schumacher was little, he had the opportunity to travel to Europe with the U.S. cross-country team. His dad, an orthopedic surgeon, was the team doctor at a few world cups that year, and Gus went with him to Europe. There, he glimpsed the life of a world cup athlete and loved it, training even harder when he returned home to Anchorage, Alaska.
One of the U.S.’s most promising young cross-country skiers, Schumacher qualified for his first world junior team in 2018, then anchored the U.S. men to their first-ever medal in the 4x5km relay that year. In 2019, he anchored the relay to its first-ever world junior gold medal and finished just off the podium in two other distance races. In 2020, just before the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Schumacher won his first individual world title (10k classic) and helped the U.S. men defend their relay title.
Last season, in his second year competing on the world cup tour, Schumacher finished in the points in almost every race he entered, with a career-high eighth place in a 15k classic race. And he finished 18th overall in last season’s Tour de Ski (the best-ever U.S. men’s result).
A civil engineering major at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, Schumacher is not competing with the UAA Seawolves’ NCAA team. He still trains with the Alaska Winter Stars back home. Now 21, Schumacher’s Olympic season started slowly. But he will likely peak for the Olympic Games in Beijing.