Sophia Laukli competes in 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 of Boston and only cross-country skied when she visited her grandparents in Germany (both of Kerns’ parents are German). But in the first year of high school, she got injured and couldn’t play basketball. Instead, she went to U.S. nationals cross country and earned a spot on an U.S. junior team in international competition. She had so much fun she never looked back.
At the 2017 World Junior Championships, Kern made history when she, Hannah Halvorsen, Katharine Ogden and Hailey Swirbul won bronze in the team relay. It was the first relay medal won by American junior skiers at a world championship. Since then, Kern, 24, has picked up a bronze medal at the U23 World Championships (2020) and two World Cup podiums. The most recent 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 with Jessie Diggins. A talented sprinter, look for Kern in the free individual sprint, then possibly in the team sprint. She also anchored the United States in fourth place in a 4x5km team relay in December and skied the second fastest relay final leg.
Hannah Halvorsen thought her career might be over after she was hit by a car while crossing a street in Anchorage, Alaska on November 1, 2019. Her injuries included two torn knee ligaments, a fractured tibial plateau, a blow whipping that led to a throbbing neck and back problems, and a fractured skull. Doctors had to wait for the swelling caused by head trauma to subside before performing surgery on his knee.
It took 11 months before Halvorsen returned to snow, and she wondered if she would ever find her potential again. At the 2017 World Junior Championships, Halvorsen was part of the U.S. women’s relay team that won a historic bronze medal. The following year, Halvorsen finished eighth in the Junior World Women’s Sprint.
When she had recovered enough to resume running, the world was in the midst of a global pandemic. Few national races were on the program. So rather than returning to competition, Halvorsen dove back into world cup racing and scored his first world cup points in his second race back.
This season, 23-year-old Halvorsen has maintained his momentum in the 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 continue training.
A native of Truckee, Calif., Halvorsen has been open about body image issues and eating disorder awareness.
Dual American and Norwegian nationality, Sophie Laukli is a promising cross-country skier. Her father, Bjorn, is from Norway and was a cross-country All-American for the University of Colorado in the early 1990s. A native of Yarmouth, Maine, Laukli won every high school race in his senior year. year, then enrolled at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Her first year at Middlebury, she traveled overseas for the 2020 World Junior Championships and finished fifth in the 5km freestyle, then helped the US women’s 4×3.3km relay to a silver medal. She returned to Vermont in time to compete in the 2020 NCAA Championships, taking second place in the 5k freestyle before the world shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Later that spring, Laukli was named to the US Ski Team Development Squad.
Last winter, Laukli returned to Middlebury but traveled to Europe in term J (January) to make her World Cup debut.
This year, Laukli transferred to the University of Utah, and she continued to balance classes with more World Cup races. 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-placed American behind Jessie Diggins) . Laukli will be looking to gain experience at the Beijing Winter Games in 2022.
Hailing from the cross-country skiing paradise of Washington State’s Methow Valley, 20-year-old Novie McCabe has Olympic cross-country skiing in her DNA. His mother, Laura McCabe, competed in the 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics, and after Novie was born she continued to do ski walking intervals while carrying her baby on her back – with Novie panting in his ear, mimicking his mother’s gasping breath.
With the lifestyle of athletes entrenched and elite skiers in the valley to emulate (including two-time Olympian Sadie Bjornsen), McCabe grew to be one of the top junior skiers in the country. At the 2020 World Junior Championships, she finished ninth in the 15km freestyle, then anchored the American women to a silver medal in the 4×3.3km relay. Based on these results, she was named to the 2019/2020 USA Development Team.
McCabe headed to the University of Utah in the fall of 2020, and her freshman year she made the podium in every varsity race she entered, including two bronze medals at the U.S. Championships. NCAA.
Just 20, McCabe made her World Cup debut two months ago and, like teammate Laukli, put on a stunning finish on the final stage of the Tour de Ski, finishing seventh (and ending her first Tour 24th in the general). Much like Laukli, McCabe will gain valuable experience at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Hailey Swirbul grew up in Aspen, Colorado and was originally a mogul skier and mountain biker. His older brother, Keegan, also rode mountain bikes and convinced his younger sister to try cross-country skiing in the winter to stay aerobically fit for cycling (Keegan is now a professional road cyclist for the rally cycling). Hailey was about 10 at the time and that year she finished on the podium in a cross-country race. She was good at sports, she realized. So she clung to it.
Fast forward eight years to 2017, and Swirbul helped USA make 4×3.3km relay history at the World Junior Championships (along with Julia Kern, Hannah Halvorsen and Katharine Ogden). A year later, Swirbul became the first American to win two individual medals at the world junior championships, winning a silver medal in the 5k classic and a bronze medal in the skiathlon.
Last year, in only her second full season in the World Cup, Swirbul notched her first podium, taking third place in the 10km freestyle (behind teammate Brennan in first) – while studying civil engineering at University from Alaska-Anchorage, then to Alaska. Pacific University where she trains with the APU team. Swirbul obtained her baccalaureate in December 2021 and will therefore be able to travel to Beijing without her textbooks. A talented classic skier, Swirbul will likely be a valuable asset in women’s distance races as well as the 4x5k relay.