Yesterday, news came out that Vermont produces more Winter Olympians per capita than any other U.S. state. While this may be a new revelation to reporters based in flatter, warmer states, it's not to us Vermonters. Duh. What else are we going to do in the winter? Swim?
It would really be news if athletes with Vermont roots or connections could win more medals per capita than athletes from other U.S. states. So far, three of the 14 athletes who list Vermont as home have won medals: Hannah Kearney with a bronze in women's moguls; Kelly Clark, bronze in women's halfpipe; and Devin Logan, silver in snowboarding slopestyle. Three of 14-that's 21 percent.
If the U.S. women's cross-country ski team can medal in the 4x5km relay tomorrow, it would really up the total medal count. Although the start list has not been released yet, the team could include Vermonters Ida Sargent, Sophie Caldwell, and/or Liz Stephen.
In her first Olympics, Sophie Caldwell stunned the crowd when she qualified for the sprint final on Tuesday-after a gutsy semifinal where she came up fast on the inside and crossed the line in second place.
"I definitely wasn't expecting that," said Caldwell. "I was thrilled to be there and was riding an excitement high between heats."
Meanwhile, race favorite Kikkan Randall didn't advance beyond the quarterfinal, leaving everyone speechless. But that's the sprint, said an ever-optimistic Randall after the race.
Caldwell, 23, is from Peru, Vt., and graduated from the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) where her dad Sverre runs the Nordic program. Asked if she talked to her dad before the race, Caldwell said no, he was asleep (Sochi is 9 hours ahead of the eastern U.S.). But she did talk to both her parents the previous night, and Sverre offered sage advice.
"He said to remember I ski the best when I'm having fun, so try to have fun with it," said Caldwell.
And she did seem to have fun with it, smiling on the starting line of each heat. Even after she was tripped up in a sharp corner at the top of the course and fell in the final, finishing sixth, she was all smiles talking to reporters, perhaps because she knows the U.S. team has more medal chances, particularly the 4x5km relay. In the past two years, the American women have twice finished in the medals in World Cup relays.
"I've been so excited for this chance to show the world how strong we are as a team and the depth that we have," gushed Jessie Diggins, who has anchored the relay for the past three years. A Minnesota native and current world champion in the team sprint, Diggins is a member of the SMS T2 team and trains in Vermont in the summers.
The 4x5km relay features two classic legs and two freestyle legs. Randall is a sure bet to lead the team, as well as Diggins. Liz Stephen, from East Montpelier, has been on the two teams that finished third in the recent World Cups. And given her current speed, Caldwell is a likely contender too.
If those two Vermonters-and three if we count Diggins training on a Vermont-based team-win medals this Olympics, then one third of the Vermont athletes competing in Sochi will have carry home Olympic hardware.
Have one third of the Californians or Utah athletes won a medal yet? Possibly; I haven't done the math. It probably depends on how many of them play hockey.
But if we look at medal count on a per capita basis, I'm sure we'd win the race. It's all about manipulating the statistics.
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