The pursuit of Olympic dreams is often accompanied by a hefty price tag. To support some of Alaska’s most highly regarded athletes, the Alaska Winter Olympians Scholarship, a fund of The Alaska Community Foundation, recently awarded $10,000 to five current and aspiring Alaskan winter Olympians. The awards will help cover expenses such as race entries, training program fees, travel, and equipment.
Holly Brooks and Sadie Bjornsen, both of Anchorage, are B Team Members of the US Nordic Ski Team. While being named to the national team is a huge accomplishment, Brooks and Bjornsen do not receive financial support from the team for racing. Both women pay $150 a day to race on the World Cup circuit. Brooks, who will be training and racing in Europe until April, notes, “Racing on the World Cup is imperative to my growth as a top athlete and my bid towards the Olympics.
The cost of spending five months racing and training in Europe is astronomical and support like this scholarship is crucial towards my ability to be here, representing Alaska, and pursuing my dreams.” Brooks represented the U.S. in the 2010 Vancouver Games and hopes to improve on her performance in the upcoming Olympic Games. Bjornsen was the second-ever female from the U.S. to win a World Cup medal in 2011, and hopes to join her teammate in Sochi 2014.
Keegan Messing, a figure skater from Girdwood, has dreamed of competing in the Olympics since he was 4 years old. Now at age 20, he is close to making that dream a reality. He is currently ranked 12th in the world, and this October won the Cup of Nice, an international skating competition in Nice, France.
Rosie Mancari is a snowboard cross athlete from Anchorage ranked 7th in the nation. She graduated early from South High School in 2011 to train in Colorado with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. She is dedicated to achieving the highest level in her sport, and her goals include making the US team and qualifying for the Olympics. She balances her athletic pursuits while also attending UAA as a full-time student.
Jack Consenstein is a young Anchorage athlete dedicated to the sport of nordic combined, a little-known sport that includes both nordic ski racing and ski jumping. Jack trains with the APU and West High School ski teams as well as with the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage jumping program. He says, “The support from ACF will help financially, but even more importantly, keep me on track with my goal to compete in nordic combined and to get other kids like me excited and involved in the sport.”
Awards for these athletes were chosen by a scholarship award committee that includes several former Alaskan Olympic athletes who know firsthand how important outside funding sources can be to reaching an Olympic level of competition.
“Aspiring to be an Olympian takes time and dedication on a level that leaves very little room for anything else. As an athlete it is virtually impossible to work a regular 9-5 job because of training and travel to competitions,” says snowboarder Rosey Fletcher Grunwaldt, 2006 Olympic bronze medalist. Now retired from competition, Grunwaldt and her fellow committee members are happy to support future Alaskan athletes through ACF’s Winter Olympians Scholarship program.
About Winter Olympians Scholarship
The Alaska Winter Olympians Scholarship is a scholarship program offered through The Alaska Community Foundation. Winter Olympians began working with ACF in 2003 and established the scholarship fund in September of 2012 in order to offer yearly scholarships to assist current and potential Alaskan winter Olympians with the high costs of preparing for Olympic competition. Scholarships are awarded to Alaskan residents who show regional, national or international promise in Olympic winter sports and who also have financial need. Scholarships are granted once a year and are overseen by an advisory committee consisting of several former Alaskan winter Olympians, as well as other supporters of winter Olympic sports. Scholarship funds will assist Alaskan athletes with costs such as race entry fees, gear and travel expenses.