Alaskans account for more than half of this year’s U.S. Olympic cross-country ski team, and that includes Anchorage’s Rosie Brennan, who is returning to the Olympics after racing in 2018.
Brennan’s performances early in this season’s World Cup races earned her a spot on the team which was announced last week.
Brennan says she’s helped by her experience, not just in Olympic or World Cup racing, but in having already navigated the first year of a global pandemic as an athlete.
The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Rosie Brennan: I think all of us this summer had hoped that this winter was not going to be the same, that we would be able to spend more time together and not have races canceled, and so on and so forth. And here we are: I don’t know —maybe things are arguably worse right now? I’m not sure. That’s a little frustrating for sure.
Just the consequence of getting COVID before Beijing is pretty extreme. I think in the last probably month or so, that’s been weighing very heavy on everyone’s mind. We made it through the whole season with everyone staying healthy. So I think, hopefully, that means that the things that we were doing were working for the most part. Maybe we just got lucky. It’s hard to say. But I think we at least have some feeling that we did have enough control over our behaviors to put ourselves at least in a place to have good luck.
Casey Grove: Well, I should say congratulations on making the team.
Rosie Brennan: Oh, thank you.
Casey Grove: My admittedly limited understanding of how this works is that there are different avenues to making the Olympic team. How did that work out for you?
Rosie Brennan: There are different tiers of standards that you can meet to get selected for the team. I actually met the first standard on the first weekend of World Cup racing finishing 6th in a classic race in Ruka, Finland, so it was pretty slick for me. I’d say, it went according to plan, very, very well since knew that I had met the standard to make the team back in November.
Since then, I’ve really been able to focus on the path I need to take to be in the best shape I can for the Olympic games. So that’s been an exciting approach for me, and just a great place to be.
Casey Grove: That’s awesome. One thing that a lot of folks here in Alaska have been talking about are all the the athletes on the team with connections to Alaska. Of course, Alaskans have to do that but I wonder, what do you think that says about Anchorage, or Alaska in general, that so many people on the on the U.S. Ski Team are from here, or have connections to here?
Rosie Brennan: I mean, I think that’s what it says! I think it speaks volumes to the nordic community that’s in Alaska, and also just the incredible momentum we’ve had over the last 10 years or so, probably starting with Kikkan Randall. When that’s what you see everyday growing up, someone out there crushing World Cup races, it certainly gives you the confidence and the belief that it’s possible.
It’s a tight-knit community, and I think we really pride ourselves in being supportive and really rooting for one another, putting in a lot of hard training hours in probably some subpar weather compared to some of the other club teams around the nation. But also being super fortunate to have access to so much snow in Alaska.
For me, anyway, that’s made a huge difference in my training, just being able to ski so much more than all the other teams. I think the best example is when we head to World Cup in November, for the first weekend of racing. At that point, I have anywhere from like three to four weeks of training on snow under my belt, and all of my other teammates on the national team have had zero hours on snow at that point. And I think it pays off to just be able to ski a lot.
Casey Grove: You mentioned different generations of skiers inspiring the ones that that came after them, including yourself. I wonder how you feel about maybe inhabiting that role now as the person inspiring the next generation and just what what would you say to that person?
Rosie Brennan: Honestly, it’s been one of my biggest motivators to continue my career this far. The women’s team in particular had made so much progress, and I felt like the youngsters were really close but still needed a little bit of guidance to make that step. And so I definitely have been motivated to not step away until I felt like they were really ready to carry things forward. And we do have a lot of younger athletes on the team. We have a very, very young team.
I think it will be a great opportunity for them to gain experience and hopefully the veterans on the team can share what knowledge we have.
For me, my career really took a long time to take off, I guess you could say. And so my message has always just been to give yourself that patience, to have the patience and to continue the belief and to know that not every two skiers’ paths look the same. There’s so many different ways to become a good athlete, and it’s really about being true to yourself, who you are and having the patience, but also the willingness to put in that work year after year after year. If you believe it’s worth it.