As the days count down to the Winter Olympics, U.S. athletes are scattered all over the world training, competing and gearing up for the games.
But reaching the Olympic stage doesn't always go as planned. Washington native Sadie Bjornsen knows that first hand.
“There is no perfect way, everyone has their own way, and it’s not only going to be up, there's going to be a lot of swings, you’re going to fall down more times, then you get up sometimes,” Bjornsen explained.
Seven years ago, she started skiing for the University of Alaska with dreams of making the 2010 Olympic team. She trained hard, but missed the cut for Vancouver.
So, she transferred to Alaska Pacific University to get a fresh start and train with Kikkan Randall, the best U.S. Women's cross country skier of all time.
“Right away Kikkan took me in under her wing and showed me all her cards, showed me all the things she was strong at, all the lessons she had learned, all the hardships she had gone through,” Bjornsen recalled.
Randall is a 4-time Olympian, 17-time U.S. National champion, and became the first American woman to win a gold medal at a World Championships. While she’s enjoyed the individual accolades, Kikkan has loved watching young skiers like Sadie come so far.
“We’ve been training together for I think six years now, and I can’t believe that much time has gone by, if I look back every year, her consistency has just gotten stronger and stronger," Randall said.
“I remember the first team sprint we did together on the World Cup in Dusseldorf, she was so nervous, she couldn't hardly keep her food down and she was bouncing off the walls," Randall recalled. "And now she is that poised veteran, she knows how to get into that World Cup field and mix it up.”
At November's World Cup in Finland, Sadie’s hard work paid off with a win in the semi’s. Then in the finals, she kicked off the World Cup season by finishing second. Her place on the podium qualified Sadie for the 2018 Olympics.
“She’s set her goals higher and higher and I’m totally confident that Sadie, along with other members of our team, are going to set the bar far higher than what I’ve been able to achieve,” Randall said.
That second place finish was her best individual finish at a World Cup or World Championship.
Meanwhile, Sadie's brother, Erik, finished in 26th place in Finland, that was the highest finish for a U.S. men's skier. Erik has also officially qualified for the PyeongChang Olympics.
If you want to follow the Sadie's journey to South Korea, she has a blog at sadiebjornsen.com.