American Birkebeiner Standouts to Race in Winter Olympics

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Nine former Subaru American Birkebeiner standouts, including one former champion, are slated to race in the upcoming 2006 Winter Games. The cross-country competitions will take place in the mountain-town of Pragelato, Italy. As the Olympic team races in Italy, 9,000 skiers from around the world will be going for their own gold during Birkie 2006 races and events in Cable and Hayward, Wisconsin, from Feb. 23 through Feb. 25.

Nine former Subaru American Birkebeiner standouts, including one former champion, are slated to race in the upcoming 2006 Winter Games. The cross-country competitions will take place in the mountain-town of Pragelato, Italy.

“This information is proof positive that the Subaru American Birkebeiner is not only the largest ski marathon in North America, but also one of the most competitive,” said Andrew Gerlach, director of the Subaru Factory Team. “The Birkie has been an invaluable training ground for these athletes and a stepping stone to the Winter Games.”

The 2006 U.S. Olympic Cross Country Team includes:

Men:

  • Chris Cook, 25, Rhinelander, Wis. (10th in Birkie 2004); Atomic Team
  • Justin Freeman, 29, Andover, N.H. (20th in Birkie 1999)
  • Kris Freeman, 25, Andover, N.H. (Birkie 2002)
  • Lars Flora, 28, Anchorage, Alaska (8th in Birkie 2004); Subaru Factory Team
  • Andrew Johnson, 28, Greensboro, Vt.
  • Torin Koos, 25, Leavenworth, Wash.
  • Andy Newell, 22, Shaftsbury, Vt.
  • James Southam, 27, Anchorage, Alaska
  • Carl Swenson, 35, Park City, Utah (1998 Birkie champion, 2nd in 1999, 3rd in 2001)
  • Leif Zimmermann, 22, Bozeman, Mont. (4th in Birkie 2005)

Women:

  • Rebecca Dussault, 25, Gunnison, Colo. (7th in Birkie 2004); Subaru Factory Team
  • Sarah Konrad, 38, Laramie, Wyo. (4th in Birkie 2002, 14th in 1999)
  • Abigail Larson, 26, Bozeman, Mont. (7th in Birkie 2005, 8th in 2004); Subaru Factory Team
  • Kikkan Randall, 23, Anchorage, Alaska
  • Wendy Wagner, 32, Park City, Utah
  • Lindsey Weier, 21, Mahtomedi, Minn.
  • Lindsay Williams, 21, Hastings, Minn.

"This is a strong team, even stronger than we had four years ago," said Luke Bodensteiner, Nordic Program Director. "Those who were rookies in Salt Lake have developed into real performers now, and our first-timers in 2006 are poised for some very noteworthy results themselves, which we can continue to build from.

"We had a great group of Americans who did not make the team, but who poured their guts out in their effort to earn a spot. They really pushed each other over the last 12 months and by doing so, raised the level of all our skiers."

Ivan Babikov (6th in Birkie 2005 & 2004), another Birkie standout from the Subaru Factory Team, is currently racing in Russia with hopes of qualifying for their Olympic Team.

The U.S. Olympic Cross Country Team will arrive in Torino to begin training Feb. 6. The final cross country ski race, the men's 50km Olympic competition, will be held closing weekend of the Olympic Games and fittingly enough the same day as the American Birkebeiner.

As the Olympic team races in Italy, 9,000 skiers from around the world will be going for their own gold during Birkie 2006 races and events in Cable and Hayward, Wisconsin, from Feb. 23 through Feb. 25.

Ski events kick off with the Sons of Norway/Swiss Miss Barnebirkie, the largest children's cross-country skiing event in the nation, followed by the Salomon Elite Sprints, Century Tel Junior Birkie, Hayward Chamber of Commerce Citizen Sprints, and Cheqtel 5K and 10K.

Birkie 2006 culminates on Saturday, Feb. 25 with the 51 kilometer Subaru American Birkebeiner, 23 kilometer Kortelopet sponsored by the State Bank of Drummond and Cable Chamber of Commerce, the Johnson Bank Prince Haakon 12K, and the new Ski For The Cure! program.

The registration deadline for the 33rd annual Subaru American Birkebeiner is 8pm Friday, February 24th. To register, log on to http://www.birkie.com/registration/online. For more race information, skiers can call 715.634.5025 or e-mail birkie@birkie.com.

For media inquiries, contact Leslie Hamp at 715-682-5824.

Birkie 2006 is sponsored by Subaru, State Bank of Drummond, Cable Chamber of Commerce, Johnson Bank, Murphy McGinnis Media and other businesses throughout the region and country.

by Leslie Hamp

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