PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Cross-country skier Rosie Brennan has followed a long road from Park City to Pyeongchang — but she has finally arrived on winter sports’ biggest stage.
“Making your first Olympic team is literally a dream come true,” she said Wednesday. “So I’m looking forward to just soaking in the experience.”
Brennan grew up alpine skiing with her family in Park City, and didn’t take up Nordic skiing until she was 14.
“I think I was driving my mother crazy and she was like, ‘You have to find something to do this winter,’ and she convinced me to join the Nordic team,” Brennan said. “It was love at first sight. I just loved every part of it. So that became my thing.”
Brennan, 29, was a member of the U.S. Ski Team from 2007 to 2009, but then lost her spot. She went on to ski at Dartmouth College. When she graduated, she decided to stick with skiing, joining up with U.S. Ski Team member Kikkan Randall in the Nordic program at Alaska Pacific University.
She competed on the Super Tour circuit, a tier below World Cup, with disappointing results at first. But she stuck with it, and had better results that vaulted her to regular starts on the World Cup circuit.
In 2015, she was finally able to regain a spot on the U.S. Ski Team.
“I’ve had a lot of injuries and other obstacles to work through that process,” she said. “But it’s just been a path of determination. I think I just knew that I wanted to be back on the highest level and knew I could get there if I just kept trying.”
She’s now a member of the U.S. Olympic women’s cross-country team, which is considered the best in history. The American women are expected to be in the mix for medals in multiple events. They have never won an Olympic medal in cross country.
Bill Koch was the first and only American to win a cross country Olympic medal when he won silver at the Innsbruck Games in the 30-kilometer race.
This season, five different American women have stood on the podium in World Cup races. While Brennan hasn’t been one of them, she’s recorded several top-20 results.
Brennan doesn’t know yet which events she will compete in at the Olympics — but distance races such as the 30-kilometer classic and the skiathlon could be her best shot. She would also love a chance to be part of the women’s relay.
“Our team is so competitive that we won’t know until at some points the night before,” she said. “We have just so many strong women.”
Jessie Diggins currently sits third on the World Cup leaderboard, with 967 overall points. Sadie Bjornsen and Sophie Caldwell are in the top 20, with Randall, Liz Stephen, Brennan and Ida Sargent in the top 45.
With that deep team, Brennan will wait to see if she can earn a start in the Olympics. Her family will head over to South Korea to cheer her on for the second half of the Games.
“That’s my biggest hope — that they get to see me race and I get to spend a little time with them,” she said.
Ed Stoner is the director of content for Swift Communications. He is covering the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, focusing on athletes from Swift’s communities in Colorado, Utah, California and Nevada.