APU, Alyeska prepare for Chinese Olympians
The Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Team members prepare for a stroll through the park. It does not matter there is no snow on the ground. It's part of their dry land training at Kincaid Park.
"Being based out of Anchorage, we have the option to run and train in the mountains. We also have skis with wheels on them-- roller skiing," said head coach Erik Flora.
There's no slowing down for the athletes who train 11 months out of the year.
"We are out here getting ready for the next Olympic cycle," said Flora.
It's been quite a year so far for the ski team.
Anchorage's Kikkan Randall helped bring home America's first gold medal in women's Nordic skiing at this year's winter games in South Korea. She is among nine APU skiers on the country's Nordic team, while another raced for Australia.
"We built this program on the idea that we wanted to help athletes reach their goals," said Flora.
APU may soon help more international athletes.
The university has reached a tentative deal with China to send their Nordic skiers to Anchorage to train as early as this August. China will host the 2022 Winter Games.
"They have a lot of people, a lot of talented athletes, it's that system, getting on snow time. That's kind of the unique thing we have here in Alaska, we have tremendous summer training facilities, and that's where collaboration and a strong partnership can be built," said Flora.
Kincaid Park offers plenty of hills but these are not the only ones Chinese Olympians would use around Anchorage.
Collegiate downhill skiing is just one of the events Alyeska hosts. Resort operators say the Chinese government also wants to use the resort to train some of its athletes ahead of the Games.
"As they started to understand a little more-- what it meant to train up on a glacier and have year-round snow up there-- it was pretty exciting," said Alyeska Vice President Eric Fullerton.
All of this is the result of Governor Bill Walker's recent trade mission to China, which Alyeska and APU attended. He says Anchorage could help train even more Chinese Olympians.
"And then they said, ‘do you guys have any hockey up there?’ So, they want to bring their hockey team over," said Governor Walker.
The Kunlun Red Star Hockey Team practiced in Anchorage back in January. It's China's first professional women's hockey team. Many of the players will skate in the 2022 Olympics. Anchorage's Zoe Hickel plays for the team. Part of her job is to get the Chinese players ready for the next Winter Games,
"It's awesome to see what we have done this last year with KRS, integrating some of the North Americans with the Chinese, wanting to see Alaska, be a part of that, it'll be huge opportunities for us and the Chinese, yeah. Hopefully see of my teammates up here, too," said Hickel.
Meanwhile, the APU Ski Team continues its summer training program around Kincaid Park; they may soon have company on the trails.
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