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Reporter debrief: Biathlon, alpine skiing & other events to watch to catch Vermont Olympians

Susan Dunklee skis with the poles under her arms and her rifle on her back.
Matthias Schrader
Susan Dunklee skis during the women's 10 km Pursuit competition at the Biathlon World Championships in Antholz, Italy, in 2020. Dunklee is among the roughly two dozen Olympians with Vermont ties.

The 2022 Winter Olympics are officially underway today in Beijing, the first city to host both winter and summer games. The pandemic is keeping many fans and spectators away from the games, but it hasn’t been keeping the athletes away, including roughly two dozen Olympians with ties to Vermont.

Vermont Edition hosts Connor Cyrus and Mikaela Lefrak spoke with NBC5 sports anchor and reporter Marshall Kramsky about the Vermonters gearing up for the winter Olympics in Beijing.

On the Vermont biathletes competing in the Olympics this year:

Marshall Kramsky: One thing to know about the biathlon is, whenever you talk to any of the athletes, they compare it to the NFL in Europe. So, we don't have the same amount of focus on the sport year-round as they do, but that doesn't mean these athletes don't train just as hard. And they're hoping to crack through, especially on the men's side, you know, win that first Olympic medal.

I'd be remiss if I didn't first talk about Leif Nordgren—that's my colleague, Caitlin Napoleoni's husband, who's due date for their first child is today!

Leif is in China, getting ready for his third—and what he told me is his final—Olympics. So, he's one of the veterans on the team. The men's side especially are excited, after speaking with Leif, of the diversity the team has, with a first-time Olympian like Jake Brown. And they have a good mix of talent, and there are a lot of ties to our region, especially because a lot of them also serve in the Vermont National Guard and train at their training facility in Jericho.

On the women's side, one of the most famous is Susan Dunklee, who is basically "Miss Craftsbury," and runs a bunch of stuff with the Green Racing Project in the Northeast Kingdom. And she has a really good shot. It's tough to know now, because especially in biathlon, a lot of it comes down to the rifle shooting. So, anything can happen on any given day, but it would be a really, really big story if they were to take home a medal.

On two well-known Olympians with Vermont ties, Mikaela Shiffrin—a Burke Mountain Academy alum who competes in alpine skiing—and Jessie Diggins, a cross country skier who trains in Stratton:

Mikaela Shiffrin is skiing this year like a woman on a mission. She was doing incredible on the World Cup tour, leading up into the Olympics. She has been pretty much the face of this Olympic Games for the United States, and internationally, too, she's as good as you could possibly be.

She's coming off a really emotional quad: losing her father, having a lot of mental health concerns that she has been very outwardly speaking about, and has gone through a lot, but overcoming it, it looks like, and really just out to light the world on fire. She's going to be competing in a few events, and it should be really, really exciting, especially with her local ties. She is obviously one that everyone knows they should be watching and makes for great, great TV.

[From Jessie Diggins] you could expect excellence. She became the first American to win the multiple-part Tour de Ski, which is basically like the Tour de France on skis. It's a multiple-day event, and it goes on every day, and she is just doing incredible. Jesse Diggins is one of the best in the world for a reason. And that's what the Olympics are, you get to see the best of the world compete. And, can they rise to that occasion? And I don't think there's any reason why we won't see her rising to that occasion.

On how training in Vermont is helping these Olympians in Beijing:

What I think is really interesting is that, all of these skiers who are now currently in Beijing, they're talking about how their Vermont ties are helping them so much. Because it is cold in Beijing. It is icy. And that's what they're typically used to here in Vermont. So they think that the conditions in China are actually giving [these skiers] and some of these other East Coast skiers a leg up on the competition.

Listen to the full interview to hear about other Olympians with Vermont ties competing in Beijing this year.

Broadcast live on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022 at noon.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet us @vermontedition.

Connor Cyrus was co-host and senior producer of Vermont Edition from 2021-2023.
Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.