Diggins, Brennan head 2022 U.S. Olympic cross-country skiing roster

Jessie Diggins and Rosie Brennan composite - Credit: Jens Schlueter/AFP via Getty Images, Vianney Thibaut/NordicFocus/Getty

Jessie Diggins and Rosie Brennan composite – Credit: Jens Schlueter/AFP via Getty Images, Vianney Thibaut/NordicFocus/Getty

Reigning Olympic team sprint gold medalist Jessie Diggins, back for a third Games, is determined to prove she’s among cross-country skiing’s individual elites after claiming a Tour de Ski title and two crystal globes in 2021, while two-time World Cup event winner Rosie Brennan seeks to carry over her recent progress into a successful second Games appearance.

U.S. Ski and Snowboard announced Thursday the finalized roster for its 2022 U.S. Olympic cross-country skiing team, which in addition to Diggins and Brennan includes JC SchoonmakerJulia Kern, Hailey SwirbulGus SchumacherBen Ogden, Kevin BolgerScott PattersonCaitlin PattersonHannah Halvorsen, Sophia LaukliNovie McCabe and Luke Jager.

Diggins, Brennan and Kern mathematically secured their spots during the Nov. 25 through Jan. 16 qualifying period by meeting specific competition criteria. Schoonmaker, Kern, Swirbul, Schumacher, Ogden, Bolger, the Patterson siblings, Halvorsen, Laukli, McCabe and Jager clinched more recently via coaches’ discretion and/or standings lists based on a number of events and viability.

Diggins, Brennan and the Pattersons are Games returnees. The other 10 are set to make their Olympic debuts.

Jessie Diggins

Jessie Diggins at Lenzerheide
Jessie Diggins of the U.S. celebrates after the individual sprint at the FIS World Cup Cross-Country Lenzerheide on Dec. 28, 2021, in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Federico Modica/NordicFocus/Getty Images

Age: 30
Birthplace: St. Paul, Minn.
Hometown: Afton, Minn.
Residence: Stratton, Vt.
Club: Stratton Mountain School Elite Team
Past Games: 2014, 2018

IGjessiediggins | Twitter@jessdiggs
FB/jessiedigginsski | jessiediggins.com

Jessie Diggins won the team sprint event alongside Kikkan Randall at the 2018 PyeongChang Games, capturing the United States’ first-ever Olympic gold and women’s Olympic medal in cross-country skiing. Her finish and last-second surge to the front was immortalized by NBC Olympics announcer Chad Salmela‘s iconic call – “Here comes Diggins! Here comes Diggins!”

The 30-year-old Minnesotan is the most decorated American cross-country skier in world championship history, having claimed team sprint gold with Randall in 2013, 10km freestyle silver in 2015 and two medals in 2017 – individual sprint silver and team sprint bronze with Sadie Bjornsen. Last year, she became the first U.S. skier to win the Tour de Ski, and also topped the overall and distance FIS World Cup standings.

Q&A | Meet the Athletes: Jessie Diggins

Not long after winning Olympic gold in 2018, Diggins opened up about her past struggles with bulimia, and expanded on her experiences by penning “Brave Enough” in 2020. She references and expresses gratitude for eating disorder resource The Emily Program as having helped guide her to recovery. She now features the program’s logo on her race headgear and has served as a spokesperson for the treatment center since 2019.

SEE MORE: ’20-21 Tour de Ski: Diggins becomes first American champion

Diggins grew up in Afton, just east of St. Paul, Minnesota. As a kid, on longer treks with her parents, her dad Clay would tuck her into his backpack, and she’d pull his hair and tell him to “mush” and “go super-speed” because she loved to glide fast. Diggins’ sister Mackenzie, five years her junior, is into theater, and parents Deb and Clay are originally from Canada. In April 2020, Diggins got engaged to longtime boyfriend Wade Poplawski. The pair have a wedding scheduled for after the Games.

Known for her team-oriented mentality, Diggins says she tries to think about the group that got her to the starting line when competing individually. She once left an international junior event to fly back to Minnesota and compete with her high school team at regionals.

In high school is where her glitter-wearing tradition started, too, as “a reminder to myself that I race because it’s fun … that I didn’t need to worry about the outcome of the race, only worry about giving it my absolute best effort, and to remember to enjoy the process.”

Rosie Brennan

Rosie Brennan at the 2020 Davos World Cup
Rosie Brennan of the U.S. celebrates her victory in the women’s individual sprint freestyle final at the Coop FIS Cross-Country Stage World Cup on Dec. 12, 2020, in Davos, Switzerland.
Federico Modica/NordicFocus/Getty Images

Age: 33
Birthplace: Salt Lake City
Hometown: Park City, Utah
Residence: Anchorage, Alaska
Club: Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center
Past Games: 2018

IGrosiewbrennan | Twitter@rosiewbrennan
FB/rosiebrennanxc

Rosie Brennan won back-to-back World Cup events in December 2020, taking first in the individual sprint freestyle and 10km freestyle in Davos, Switzerland, adding to two previous podium finishes in Lillehammer, Norway, as a relay team member. The 32-year-old Utahan is a five-time U.S. champion – winning three titles at nationals in 2015 – and a four-time U.S. world championship team selection.

Raised in U.S.-winter sports hub Park City, Utah, Brennan initially competed in the summer sport of gymnastics and stopped at age 14 when her coach moved away. She discovered skiing around the same time — it was 2002 and, perhaps not coincidentally, the Olympics had come to town earlier that year. Brennan’s mom Wiggy spent a year trying to convince her to try cross-country, and when she finally did, she entered a community race and won.

“Seeing the Olympics come to my hometown was so exciting,” Brennan said. “For those three weeks, we were out of school. I went and saw all these different events. This definitely inspired me to find a winter sport to become competitive in.”

Brennan has a degree in geography from Dartmouth College and a twin brother named Charlie. In 2014, she lost her dad Tom and almost gave up the sport. She credits Alaska Pacific University coach Erik Flora with helping her keep going, reminding her of daily accomplishments, to believe that anything’s possible and that she had support to face the challenges. “I have no doubt that I would not be here if Erik was not my coach.”

The Anchorage, Alaska, resident volunteers with girls in sports empowerment charity Fast and Female, as well as Alaska community ski instruction club Skiku.

JC Schoonmaker

JC Schoonmaker
JC Schoonmaker of the U.S. competes during the men’s FIS Cross-Country World Cup in Dresden, Germany, on Dec. 18, 2021.
Jens Schlueter/AFP via Getty Images

Age: 21
Hometown: Tahoe City, Calif.
Residence: Tahoe City, Calif.
Club: University of Alaska Anchorage
Past Games: N/A

IG: isaschoon

JC Schoonmaker has three top-10 finishes on the World Cup tour, all recorded in less than a month at the end of 2021: seventh in the Ruka individual sprint classical and ninth in both the Dresden individual sprint freestyle and team sprint with Kevin Bolger. Earlier this month, he claimed the U.S. national championship title in the sprint freestyle at Solider Hollow.

The Californian earned NCAA All-American honors while skiing for the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. Off the snow, the 21-year-old enjoys hitting up the Donner Lake rope swing, hanging out with friends or playing basketball.

Ever since he was young, Schoonmaker says he’s dreamed of not only competing at an Olympics but winning gold and becoming the world’s best skier.

Julia Kern

Julia Kern at the 2021 Lenzerheide World Cup
Julia Kern of the U.S. competes during the individual sprint at the FIS World Cup Cross-Country Lenzerheide on Dec. 28, 2021, in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Federico Modica/NordicFocus/Getty Images

Age: 24
Birthplace: Berkeley, Calif.
Hometown: Waltham, Mass.
Club: Stratton Mountain School Elite Team
Past Games: N/A

IG: juliakernski | Twitter: @juliakernski
FB: /juliakernski | juliakernski.com

Julia Kern registered an exceptional December portion of her 2021-22 World Cup season with three top-five results: fourth as anchor of USA’s Lillehammer 4x5km relay team with Hailey SwirbulRosie Brennan and Jessie Digginssecond in the Dresden team sprint with Diggins; and fourth in the Tour de Ski opening-stage individual sprint freestyle in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

The Massachusetts native enjoys participating in anything outdoors-related. After all, she’s been skiing since she could walk, bribed by her grandparents with gummy bears at every stopping point as her family skied in Germany over Christmas breaks.

Kern, 24, is involved with several charities including the Share Winter Foundation, which helps all kids get active, and girl empowerment organizations Little Bellas and Fast and Female.

Hailey Swirbul

Hailey Swirbul at the 2021 Davos World Cup
Hailey Swirbul of the U.S. after the women’s 10km at the FIS World Cup Cross-Country Davos on Dec. 12, 2021, in Davos, Switzerland.
Federico Modica/NordicFocus/Getty Images

Age: 23
Birthplace: Grand Junction, Colo.
Hometown: El Jebel, Colo.
Residence: Carbondale, Colo.
Club: Alaska Pacific University Nordic Center
Past Games: N/A

IG: hai.swirl | FB: /HaileySwirbulAthlete
TikTok: hai.swirl

Hailey Swirbul made her first World Cup podium in 2020 with a third-place finish in the Davos 10km freestyle. A year later this past December, she found more success at the Switzerland competition, placing sixth in the same event.

During her junior career, Swirbul took home three medals from the junior world championships: 2017 bronze in the 4×3.3km relay, 2018 bronze in the skiathlon and 2018 silver in the 5km classical.

The 23-year-old Coloradan picked up skiing with her brother Keegan as a way to keep in shape for mountain biking through the winter, then fell in love with it. She’s spends her free time baking, oil painting, fly fishing and studying, and is an advocate for addressing the wage gap between male and female coaches via the Women Ski Coaches Association.

Gus Schumacher

Gus Schumacher at 2021 Worlds
Gus Schumacher of the U.S. competes during the men’s cross-country 15km freestyle at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Oberstdorf at Cross-Country Stadium Ried on March 03, 2021, in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Age: 21
Birthplace: Madison, Wis.
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Residence: Anchorage, Alaska
Club: Alaska Winter Stars
Past Games: N/A

IG: gus.schumacher | Twitter: @august_schu
FB: /augustschumache | gusschumacher.squarespace.com

As a junior skier in 2020, then 19-year-old Gus Schumacher became the first-ever American to win an individual world junior title, capturing 10km classical gold. The previous year, he anchored a relay team to gold that included Ben Ogden and Luke Jager.

Making the transition to the World Cup circuit the following season, Schumacher finished 18th overall at the multi-stage Tour de Ski – the best-ever result for a U.S. men’s skier.

When he’s not competing on the cross-country course, the Alaskan, now 21, enjoys backcountry skiing, riding motocross, paddleboarding and commercially fishing for salmon in the summertime. He also spends time volunteering for Special Olympics.

Ben Ogden

Ben Ogden at the 2021 Lillehammer World Cup
Ben Ogden of the U.S. competes during the individual sprint at the FIS World Cup Cross-Country Lillehammer on Dec. 3, 2021, in Lillehammer, Norway.
Federico Modica/NordicFocus/Getty Images

Age: 21 (22 on Feb. 13)
Birthplace: Landgrove, Vt.
Hometown: Landgrove, Vt.
Residence: Manchester, Vt.
Club: Stratton Mountain School Elite Team
Past Games: N/A

IG: ben.0gden

Ben Ogden grew up skiing at a young age with his dad John coaching the local youth ski league, and continued in college at the University of Vermont. His sister Katharine, also a skier, competed at Dartmouth College.

As a junior skier, Ogden earned back-to-back golds for the U.S. in the 4x5km relay with Gus Schumacher at the 2019 and 2020 Junior World Championships. More recently, he and Schumacher took ninth in the 4×7.5km at December’s Lillehammer World Cup.

The 21-year-old Vermonter enjoys woodworking when he’s not skiing. He’s working toward or has already finished a mechanical engineering degree at UVM and hopes to eventually help build and innovate electric vehicles.

Kevin Bolger

Kevin Bolger at 2021 Worlds
Kevin Bolger of the U.S. competes during the men’s cross-country sprint classical qualification at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Oberstdorf at Cross-Country Stadium Ried on Feb. 25, 2021, in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Age: 28
Hometown: Minocqua, Wis.
Club: Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation
Past Games: N/A

IG: kevinbolger | Twitter: @BolgerKevin
FB: /BolgerKevinOfficial

Kevin Bolger, together with fellow Olympic teammate JC Schoonmaker, placed ninth in the team sprint at December’s Dresden World Cup in Germany. He’s finished top-10 in that event three other times since 2019.

Individually, Bolger’s career-best is a sixth-place result in the 2020 Dresden sprint freestyle. He won a U.S. championship title in the 1.5km sprint classical at Soldier Hollow in 2017.

The 28-year-old Wisconsinite attended and skied for the University of Utah, was a “killer” tap dancer at age 3 and has been a member of the world’s oldest amateur water ski team.

Scott Patterson

Scott Patterson at 2021 Worlds
Scott Patterson of the U.S. competes during the men’s cross-country 50km at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Oberstdorf on March 7, 2021, in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Vianney Thibaut/NordicFocus/Getty Images

Age: 29 (30 on Jan. 28)
Birthplace: McCall, Idaho
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Club: Alaska Pacific University Nordic Center
Past Games: 2018

IG: scottgpatterson

Scott Patterson is set to make his second Olympic appearance along with sister Caitlin Patterson. At the 2018 PyeongChang Games, he took 11th in the 50km classical, 18th in the skiathlon, 21st in the 15km freestyle and 13th as a member of the men’s relay.

At last season’s Lahti World Cup in Finland, Patterson, Gus Schumacher and two other Americans posted a seventh-place finish for the U.S. in the men’s 4×7.5km relay. He has five top-10 World Cup results in his career.

The 29-year-old has a degree in mechanical engineering and math from the University of Vermont. He enjoys backcountry skiing, climbing and rafting, and is involved with Alaska nonprofits Skiku and Healthy Futures.

Caitlin Patterson

Caitlin Patterson competes in the 2020-21 Tour de Ski
Caitlin Patterson of the U.S. competes during the women’s 10km mass start at the FIS Tour De Ski Val di Fiemme on Jan. 10, 2021, in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
Vianney Thibaut/NordicFocus/Getty Images

Age: 31 (32 on Jan. 30)
Birthplace: McCall, Idaho
Hometown: Craftsbury, Vt.
Club: Craftsbury Green Racing Project
Past Games: 2018

IG: caitlinmpatterson | FB: /caitlinpattersonskier

Caitlin Patterson is set to make her second Olympic appearance along with brother Scott Patterson. She finished a respective 26th and 34th in the 30km classical and skiathlon at the 2018 PyeongChang Games.

Patterson placed fifth in the women’s 4x5km relay with Rosie Brennan, Jessie Diggins and Sophia Laukli at the 2021 Lahti World Cup in Finland.

The 31-year-old Vermonter has a civil engineering degree from state’s flagship university UVM and enjoys photography, hiking and running up mountains, mandolin, violin and architecture.

Hannah Halvorsen

Hannah Halvorsen at the 2021 Dresden World Cup
Hannah Halvorsen of the U.S. competes during the women’s FIS Cross-Country World Cup in Dresden, Germany, on Dec. 18, 2021.
Jens Schlueter/AFP via Getty Images

Age: 23 (24 on Feb. 19)
Birthplace: Truckee, Calif.
Hometown: Truckee, Calif.
Residence: Anchorage, Alaska
Club: Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center
Past Games: N/A

IG: hannah.g.halvorsen

A year after finishing eighth with teammate Julia Kern in the 2020 Dresden World Cup team sprint, Hannah Halvorsen returned to Germany in December and recorded a career-best result in the individual sprint, placing seventh, one spot ahead of Jessie Diggins. She called the race a confidence booster, as it was her first sprint semifinal race.

Halvorsen has five siblings: Bjorn, Chaysn, Haydn, Savannah and Sven. Her favorite feeling is making someone laugh, and for music listens to U2, Fleetwood Mac and 2PAC.

While off the snow, the 23-year-old Californian enjoys reading, painting, sewing, cooking and wake surfing. She spends her Sunday mornings working in the kitchen at Anchorage homeless shelter Bean’s Cafe.

Sophia Laukli

Sophia Laukli competes at 2021 Worlds
Sophia Laukli of United States competes during the Women’s Cross Country 10 km F at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Oberstdorf at Cross-Country Stadium Ried on March 02, 2021 in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Age: 21
Hometown: Yarmouth, Maine
Club: University of Utah
Past Games: N/A

IG: sophialaukli

Sophia Laukli posted a senior career-best result earlier this month with a fifth-place World Cup finish at Italy’s Val di Fiemme during the Stage 6 10km “final climb” mass start freestyle of the Tour de Ski. After the race, she said the outcome came as quite a shock since she had been battling fatigue from Stage 5’s race the previous day. She said she tried to stay chill and ski the race tactfully, conserving enough energy to make moves on the climb.

As a junior skier, she and fellow Olympic teammate Novie McCabe helped earn the U.S. silver in the 4×3.3km relay at the 2020 Junior World Championships. She also took runner-up that year in the 5km freestyle at NCAAs  for the University of Utah.

The 21-year-old Mainer is fluent in Norwegian and French, enjoys surfing, traveling and cooking when not skiing and says she’s related to a famous Norwegian Viking.

Novie McCabe

Novie McCabe at the 2021 Lillehammer World Cup
Novie McCabe of the U.S. competes during the individual sprint at the FIS World Cup Cross-Country Lillehammer on Dec. 3, 2021, in Lillehammer, Norway.
Federico Modica/NordicFocus/Getty Images

Age: 20
Hometown: Winthrop, Wash.
Residence: Mazama, Wash.
Club: Methow Valley Nordic Team
Past Games: N/A

IG: novie.mccabe

Novie McCabe follows in her mother Laura‘s ski tracks as a U.S. Olympic team member. Laura was a professional skier and competed in cross-country at both the 1994 Lillehammer and 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.

McCabe recorded a senior career-best result earlier this month during the Tour de Ski with a seventh-place finish in the Stage 6 10km “final climb” mass start freestyle at Italy’s Val di Fiemme. In 2020, she helped earn the U.S. a silver in the junior world 4×3.3km relay alongside fellow Olympic teammate Sophia Laukli.

When she’s not skiing, the 20-year-old Washingtonian enjoys camping, backpacking and trying new Trader Joe’s snacks. Her favorite movie is “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

Luke Jager

Luke Jager at the 2021 Lenzerheide World Cup
Luke Jager of the U.S. competes during the individual sprint at the FIS World Cup Cross-Country Lenzerheide on Dec. 28, 2021, in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Federico Modica/NordicFocus/Getty Images

Age: 22
Birthplace: Redding, Calif.
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Residence: Anchorage, Alaska
Club: University of Utah/Alaska Pacific University
Past Games: N/A

IG: lukejageryo

Luke Jager used to ski against fellow Olympic teammate Gus Schumacher in middle school and lists beating him in their 2012 opener as his top memorable athletic achievement. A three-time junior world medalist in the 4x5km relay alongside Schumacher and other teammate Ben Ogden, Jager is either working on or has already completed a degree in economics at the University of Utah.

The 22-year-old Alaskan’s best non-relay finish on the 2021-22 World Cup circuit was 18th place in the individual sprint classical on Nov. 26 in Ruka, Finland. He and the U.S. placed ninth in the men’s 4×7.5km relay on Dec. 5 in Lillehammer, Norway.

Cross-county skiing at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games kicks off Saturday, Feb. 5, with the women’s 15km skiathlon, and wraps up Sunday, Feb. 20, with the women’s 30km in freestyle. Find the full schedule here, and learn more about the sport here.

NBC Olympics Research contributed to this report

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