MAZAMA Erik Bjornsen sat eating breakfast Wednesday morning in Seiser Alm, Italy, when he heard something he’s been yearning to hear for years.
“We have a small announcement to make,” said a coach. “Baby Bjornsen has made the Olympic Team.”
“Making the Olympics is a dream come true for me,” Erik said. “Last summer, I knew I had a chance and that if everything went right I could be on the team, so I made it my goal. I haven’t worked this hard towards a goal in my whole life.”
Sadie Bjornsen, Erik’s older sister who learned earlier this month she was on the U.S. Olympic Cross Country team, was present for the announcement that Erik and Brian Gregg, who grew up in the Methow Valley, would represent the U.S. in Sochi, Russia.
“He learned of his Olympic berth in a very ‘Erik’ way,” Sadie Bjornsen said. “ He rolled out of bed about two hours after everyone else, the usual relaxed Erik. He sat down at the breakfast table all chill and like a normal morning (before the announcement).
“Erik had to ask the coach several times if that was a joke, and then he just raised one hand and yelled ‘yes,’” Sadie Bjornsen said. “You could tell he was so excited he wanted to jump up and down. It was really great to see, and I am so happy he is going to be joining me.”
“The last 12 months I have been just thinking about how to make the team and it has been super stressful,” Erik said. “I’m so glad the team is named and that I’m apart of it. Now, I’m trying to prepare the best I can. It’s my first time at the games, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going there to kick some butt for America.
“It hasn’t completely sank in yet, but I’m sure it will in the next few days,” Erik said. “Thank you to my family, friends, sponsors and supporters for helping me get here. It’s been such a fun path with a few bumps and a little hard work.”
“Baby Bjornsen is one of Erik’s many nicknames,” Sadie said. “It’s only because he is 100 percent opposite of a baby. He is a giant, but he happens to be the youngest of the Bjornsens.”
Brian Gregg, 29, now of Minneapolis, Minn., made the team. But his wife, Caitlin Compton, did not. She was on the women’s team for the previous Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C.
“I am also excited to see Brian on the list,” Sadie said. “I think it says a lot about the Methow Valley, the incredible support there, the great skiing, the learned work ethic of the valley, and the awesome parents we both have. It is pretty unique and rare to have three athletes from one small town” make the Olympics.”
The Chronicle was unable to reach Brian Gregg, but his coach for the last few years, Scott Johnston got in touch from Salt Lake City where he’s promoting his book, “Training for the New Alpinism.”
I worked with Sadie and Erik Bjornsen all through their formative years as skiers,” Johnston said. “I have worked extensively with Brian Gregg for the past 2.5 years.
Johnston was present at the U.S. National Championships, where Erik and Brian raced earlier this month in Soldier Hollow, Utah, which is part of the Olympic selection process.
“They had both performed very well there and I had a reasonable degree of confidence that they would be selected,” said Johnston, who also trained Torin Koos of Leavenworth, also on the team. “All three of them (Erik, Sadie and Brian) have worked very hard to achieve this goal and should be very proud of what they have done.
“To move from a childhood dream to an adolescent goal to an adult fulfillment of that goal takes a certain kind of dedication that is uncommon. I know many people have been part of this journey and am sure they all share in the excitement.”
The Bjornsens currently are in Seiser Alm, Italy, doing high altitude training in preparation for the Olympics.
Erik was to depart today for the U23 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
“It has been so fun having him around,” Sadie said. “He brings a certain ‘relaxation’ to the group. Not just for me, but for everyone. The whole team is always commenting on his presence in this group, so that is always fun.”
The Bjornsens parents, Tom and Mary, were scheduled to arrive in Europe Friday in preparation of watching races this next week.