An Olympic champion and a world champion are among the local athletes who are currently competing or gearing up for big senior-level events in Europe as the winter sports season rolls into February.
Erin Hamlin, who hails from just outside the Adirondack Park in Remsen, is up first as she competes Saturday in luge's most importrant event of the season. She will be racing at the International Luge Federation's 42nd Senior World Championships in Cesana, Italy on the track where the 2006 Torino Olympic Winter Games sliding competitions were held.
Hamlin won the last World Championship held in 2009 in Lake Placid, and heads into the race ranked seventh overall in the women's singles standings. Hamlin captured a pair of World Cup bronze medals earlier in the season at races in Igls, Austria and Calgary, and will have her work cut out competing against the always dominant German team.
Haley Johnson of Lake Placid skis to a 37th-place finish in the IBU World Cup women’s sprint biathlon race last Friday in Antholz, Italy. Johnson teamed up with Annalies Cook of Saranac Lake, Sara Studebaker and Laura Spector to take 13th in the 4x6 kilometer relay the following day.
(Photo provided by Manzoni/NordicFocus)
Bill Demong, who made history last winter by winning the first nordic gold medal for the U.S. at the Olympics, has had a whirlwind year since that time, including becoming a father for the first time. On Jan. 12, Bill's wife Katie delivered their first child, a boy named Liam.
After taking some well-deserved time off from competition this winter, Demong, who also won a team-relay silver medal at the Vancouver Olympics, is preparing for the 2011 Nordic World Championships being held Feb. 26- March 3 in Oslo, Norway.
Last winter, Lake Placid's John Napier won his first World Cup bobsledding medals, including a gold in four-man, on his home track at Mount Van Hoevenberg. In February 2010, Napier raced in his first Olympics, and a few months later, he was fighting in Afghanistan with his fellow Army soldiers from Vermont National Guard. Napier is back on the World Cup circuit after missing the first two events of the season and is attempting to climb his way back toward the top of the standings.
Last weekend, the FIBT World Cup tour stopped in Winterberg, Germany, where Napier drove to a 13th-place finish Sunday in four-man and a 12th in two-man on Saturday. This weekend, Napier will be competing on the historic track in St. Moritz, Switzerland on the World Cup tour's seventh stop of the season. As a driver, Napier is currently ranked 13th in two-man and 12th in four-man in the bobsled World Cup points standings.
The U.S. biathlon team has a quartet of area athletes competing this season in World Cup races, and Lake Placid's Lowell Bailey has had a January to remember. Last Thursday in Antholz, Italy, the veteran Bailey turned in his best result in three seasons when he placed 12th in the men's 10-kilometer sprint competition. He then followed that with a 22nd-place finish in the 15k mass start race. Bailey's top career finish in World Cup is an 11th-place effort in 2008 in Korea.
Teammate Tim Burke of Paul Smiths placed 34th in Thursday's sprint. On Sunday, Bailey and Burke joined fellow American biathletes Leif Nordgren and Jeremy Teela to finish ninth in the relay on the final day of the World Cup tour stop in Antholz.
Burke is currently ranked 37th in the men's biathlon World Cup points race and Bailey stands in 44th place.
Lake Placid's Haley Johnson, a Vancouver Olympian, and Saranac Lake native Annalies Cook, are also currently competing on the World Cup biathlon circuit. Johnson placed 37th in the Antholz 7.5k women's sprint on Friday.
On Saturday, Johnson and Cook teammed up with Sara Studebaker and Laura Spector to place 13th among a 19-team field in the women's 4x6k relay event.
After taking this weekend off, the Americans will be back competing on home soil when the World Cup biathlon visits Maine for the seventh and eighth tour events of the season. From Feb. 2-6, competitions will be held at Presque Isle, with the eighth stop of the winter being held a week later in Fort Kent.