In this time of social distancing and increased separation among people, one group of skiers is meeting up and continuing to strengthen the bond between themselves. The U.S Nordic Olympic Women (US NOW) are not letting the cancellation of this year’s planned reunion in Minneapolis stop them from connecting and celebrating the shared experiences and achievements of American female skiers. In place of reuniting during a brunch the morning of the Minneapolis World Cup, the group will meet virtually in the coming week through the Zoom platform. In addition to communicating with each other, the virtual meeting will include the presentation of the group’s very special Gold Rush Award.
Last March, at the group’s first reunion during the Quebec City World Cup weekend, the Inga Award was presented to Rosie Brennan for her courage and determination in coming back from mononucleosis to achieving her best international race season to date. Since then, the award has been given a new moniker: The Gold Rush Award. Founding members of US NOW decided to make this change to honor American ski heroines of both the past and present, rather than the Norwegian mother of baby prince Haakon of Birkiebeiner fame.
Researching early women’s skiing in the US revealed that in the High Sierra during the Gold Rush era, women skied cross country for long distances, had races and were highly regarded for their skiing skills. The US NOW members pursued gold of a different sort in their quest to stand atop an Olympic podium. This goal was finally achieved at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, where Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins earned the Gold Medal in the Team Sprint.
A unique watercolor picture, depicting the qualities of grit and grace in women’s cross country skiing from a long past era to today, was created by artist Andy Rogers of Alaska. Copies of this painting will be given to this year’s recipients, while the original will land in the U.S. Ski Team’s Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah.
There are currently fifty-three U.S. Nordic Olympic Women who represented our country in the ultimate of international sporting competitions, the Olympic Games, from the first team sent in 1972, to the 2018 team. The use of today’s technology will allow for a memorable gathering this spring and a celebration of the continuing spirit of American cross country skiing and of its female superstars.