It has been so long since the United States won a medal in men’s cross-country (Nordic) skiing, the event the U.S. placed in no longer exists.
Bill Koch took silver at the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria in the now discontinued 30-kilometer race. That result marks the only hardware the U.S. Nordic ski team has ever claimed in an Olympics.
Aspen’s Simi Hamilton, competing in his third Olympics, hopes to change all that in PyeongChang, South Korea this year.
Hamilton, 33, has four podiums (one win) on the World Cup circuit since he debuted in 2010, making him the most-decorated member of the men’s U.S. Nordic team. That’s how sparse U.S. success has been in the sport.
If history is any indicator, this will be Hamilton’s best chance at a medal. He has steadily improved his Olympic finishes since his first appearance in 2010, and had strong World Cup seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Hamilton in Vancouver 2010 posted finishes of 13th (4x10K relay), 29th (sprint classic) and 64th (15K freestyle). In Sochi 2014 he saw all of his results improve and nearly made the podium in one event, finishing fifth (team sprint classic), 10th (4x10K relay), 27th (sprint freestyle). He entered the 2017-18 World Cup season ranked 30th overall and ninth among sprinters, his specialty.
In October, ahead of the World Cup season, Hamilton told the Aspen Times, “If you look even beyond last season, I feel like I’ve been progressing every single year. I’m not guaranteed a starting spot on that team, but I think if I stay healthy and my training goes well throughout the rest of this fall and the rest of the season, I think I’ll be in a really good spot for throwing down at the Olympics.”
Hamilton officially punched a ticket to his third Games in January, and a strong World Cup season (he ranked 15th among the sprinters as of qualifying) should give him confidence heading to South Korea. His second-place finish in a sprint free event in January is reason for optimism.
“Even if I don’t win a medal, I think the most important part that I can do is go to the Olympics knowing I did everything in my power to try to achieve that goal,” Hamilton told the Times. “Regardless of what happens, regardless of how fast I race, I think I’ll be proud of myself and I hope my local Aspen community will be proud of me.”
Women’s cross-country ski events begin Feb. 10. Men’s events begin Feb. 11.
Feature Image Provided by U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association