Meet New Hampshire's 2018 Winter Olympians
While all of New England is obsessed with Tom Brady and his Super Bowl-bound Patriots, I've been reading up on the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
This year the Olympics snuck up on me – all those football playoff games are distracting! And now that I know I have two weeks of skiing, skating, snowboarding, curling, and bobsledding to pump my fist at, I just have to know: which athletes are from New Hampshire? Surely, there must be a few! New Hampshire is one of the coldest, iciest, snowiest, and most mountainous states! And New Hampshire skiing has a long history from Dartmouth College to Mount Washington. In fact, there have been athletes from New Hampshire in every Winter Olympics going back at least as far as 1994.
Out of more than 200 Americans heading to PyeongChang this Feburary, I'm pleased to report there are three who hail from New Hampshire. Let's get to know each one a little bit, shall we?
Eric Loughran – Pelham, NH
Freestyle Skiing (Aerials)
When Loughran started climbing onto skis at two years old, his parents signed him up for proper lessons. He played many sports while growing up, including wrestling and gymnastics – and by the age of eleven, he was doing backflips on skis at Loon Mountain. While still a young teenager, he zipped away to places like Lake Placid, NY and Park City, UT to train professionally.
The sport of Aerials is one of the most exciting spectacles of the Olympics. Skiiers fly off a ramp and perform their best trick high in the air, landing flawlessly in the snow. Loughran is currently ranked 17th in the world at Aerials and recently finished 8th overall in a World Cup event at Lake Placid. He was the top American finisher. In the last six Winter Olympics (going back to 1994), only three American men have reached the podium at Aerials, but Loughran is going to South Korea with good momentum and high spirits.
Patrick Caldwell – Lebanon, NH
Caldwell comes from a family rich with Olympic history. His father competed in the Olympics four times as a cross-country skiier and his grandfather, John Caldwell, competed in one. The elder Caldwell also coached numerous Olympic teams, and is known as the “father” of Nordic skiing in the United States, having written the definitive book on the subject. Caldwell's cousin Sophie is also on this year's Olympic team (she lives in Vermont).
Cross-country skiing is an endurance event and can get pretty brutal. Some races are short sprints and others can be as long as thirty or fifty kilometers. Caldwell – an All-American racer at Dartmouth College – has a few top-ten finishes at U23 Championship events and plenty of top-five finishes at US Super events, including a few victories. He'll have his work cut out for him at the Olympics, however. Only one American man has ever won a medal in any cross-country event: Bill Koch in 1972, who took a silver. One of Koch's previous coaches – fun fact! – was none other than John Caldwell.
Sean Doherty – Center Conway, NH
If anyone from New Hampshire has a chance to take a medal, it's Sean Doherty. His coach is Algis Shalna, a former Olympic gold medalist from Lithuania who now lives in Vermont. He's the first United States biathlete to triple podium at a single World Championship event – and he's done it twice, in 2014 and 2016 (Youth and Junior World Championships). Plus, he's been to the Olympics before. In Sochi, he was part of the men's relay team, which finished in 16th place. He was the youngest American biathlete to ever take part in the Olympics at the age of eighteen.
Cross-country skiing is already pretty intense; biathlon adds guns. Racers have to ski their lungs out, then stop for just long enough to shoot at a target numerous times before continuing the course. Missed targets mean more skiing to make up for it. Grueling stuff.
The United States has never reached the podium in any biathlon event during a Winter Olympics. Doherty's coach Shalna is optimistic, saying recently: "I will not be surprised if he comes back with the medal from Korea." It's pretty exciting to think about, and the hype has me ready for biathlon binging.
In fact, I'll be binging the entire Olympics! Winter athletes all over New England have been bumming as wicked cold and lackluster snowfall drag the season along at a crawl. Hey, if a few of us have to go all the way to South Korea to get some ice and powder, then so be it!
To Eric Loughran, Patrick Caldwell, Sean Doherty, and the rest of Team USA – good luck at the 2018 Winter Olympics!
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