Kiwanis skier named to Olympic team

Nita Englund

The venerable Kiwanis Ski Club again will be represented at the Winter Olympics.

Nita Englund, a Florence High School graduate from Spread Eagle, Wis., was named Thursday to the U.S. women’s ski jumping team that will compete in South Korea in little more than two weeks.

Englund said she was “really happy on qualifying” for the Olympic team.

“It has been a lifelong goal,” said Englund, daughter of John Englund and Julia Newton. “There was a lot of work from me, but also a lot of support from teammates, coaches, friends and family.

“It will take a few days for the emotions to settle, but it certainly means a lot to me,” Englund said.

She will become the fifth member of the Pine Mountain-based Kiwanis Ski Club to earn an Olympic berth. Previous local jumpers selected were Dick Rahoi, Willie Erickson, Butch Wedin and Mark Konopacke, said Dr. John Dougoveto, author of “Pine Mountain Ski Jump: A History of Ski Jumping in the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Area.”

Ski jumping veteran Sarah Hendrickson of Park City, Utah, will lead the women’s team, with Abby Ringquist of Park City and Englund. Hendrickson jumped in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

“Going into the second Olympic Winter Games in history for the ladies, I am excited to see two first-time Olympians join the team alongside veteran Sarah Hendrickson,” said women’s ski jumping director Alan Alborn, who has jumped at Pine Mountain. “Nita Englund and Abby Ringquist … have been working hard to secure that opportunity for many seasons.

“Although this season has not gone they way we had hoped, we are optimistic and you never know in ski jumping what can happen.”

Hendrickson claimed her spot by winning the Olympic Trials on Dec. 31. The remainder of the team qualified through World Cup results.

Ringquist said she is “overwhelmed with excitement.”

“I really can’t believe my dream is finally coming true,” she said. “Since watching the 1994 Olympics when I was 5, I knew I wanted to be an Olympian when I grew up, not knowing which sport could take me there.

“I’ve heard a lot of ‘no’s’ throughout my 21-year-long career, from not being allowed in 2006 and 2010, to missing out on 2014 Games. I almost hung my skis up four years ago, but I put my head down and worked harder than I ever have. It brings me to tears, knowing all of the hard times and hard work are paying off.”

The PyeongChang Winter Olympics begin Feb. 9. The women will have one jumping event on the normal hill on Monday, Feb. 12.

U.S. women ski jumpers are competing this week in a World Cup event at their European training base of Ljubno, Slovenia.

Burt Angeli can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 25, or bangeli@ironmountaindailynews.com.

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