Alumni and friends of SVSEF are in Pyeongchang for the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. From athletes to coaches, parents to wax techs to announcers, these Wood River Valley locals make up Team USA.
Curtis Bacca, pictured here at the base of the Pyeongchang halfpipe with Jak Tyler (former SVSEF snowboard coach to Olympians Chase Josey and Kaitlyn Farrington), is the man behind the scenes for four U.S. athletes at this year’s Olympics: Lindsey Jacobellis, Faye Guilini, Hagen Kearney and Jonathan Cheever. These snowboardcross athletes are all medal contenders, and competition for them begins February 15 (evening of February 14). A wax technician who got his start in 1990, Curtis is a leader in the niche industry and a master of his craft. He owns The Waxroom in Ketchum, is father of standout SVSEF snowboarders Peyton and Zoe, and husband to Park & Pipe team parent Debbie Bacca.
After racing for the U.S. Ski Team from 1988-1992, SVSEF board member Steve Porino has built a career in broadcasting. He covered his first Olympics in 1998, and later segued into broadcasting for ABC, ESPN, and now NBC. He is currently in Pyeongchang, broadcasting for NBC; normally, you’ll find him covering World Cup skiing by winter and the Tour de France and California from the back of a moto in the summer. Along with serving as a board member, Steve has two children in SVSEF programs – Carly is on the Alpine USSA team, and Reece is a member of the IMD team.
Chris Grover, the head coach of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team, cut his teeth coaching for SVSEF. From 1995-1997 he coached the Prep Team, and from 2004-2006 he was head coach for the Gold Team. Other ties to the organization are through his two children, who are on cross country Comp and Prep Teams, and his wife, Svea, who coaches the cross country Devo South Team and is the cross country team parent. You might’ve read a recent article in Sun Valley Magazine, where Chris discusses the importance of team dynamics – something that the U.S. women have built upon. Support among peers in a very competitive (and typically individual) sport has been a driving force that Chris and the team hold high in value. Catch the women’s 4×5 relay on Saturday, February 17 (2:30 a.m. MST).
Photo by @USAXC_OnTheRoad
Ben, an alpine alumni, coached the inaugural freeski halfpipe Olympic team in Sochi, where athletes David Wise and Maddie Bowman both took home gold. Also setting the athletes up for success is Clint Lightner, former SVSEF coach and current parent. The U.S. halfpipe freeski contingent took a different approach in the lead-up to Pyeongchang; the team headed to Japan for a training camp, to relax and reset. Watch for Ben and Clint’s athletes in the halfpipe ski events, with qualifications starting the evening of Sunday, February 18, U.S. time.
Photo by @cara__baxter
SVSEF Director of Development Cynthia Knight is in Pyeongchang to cheer on and support her daughter, hockey player Hilary Knight. One of the biggest names in women’s hockey, Hilary leads the U.S. team as a forward. She credits her mom with encouraging her to pursue her dreams. “My mother was a strong influence and role model in my life,” she said in a Q&A interview with NBC in October 2017. “She taught me that it doesn’t matter who I am, but what matters is my passions. If I want something, I need to work hard for it and go get it.” Hilary and Team USA take on Finland again at 9am Korea time, February 19, to see who advances to the gold medal game.
Photo courtesy of Cynthia Knight.
Simi Hamilton, 30, was a member of the SVSEF Cross Country Gold Team from the summer of 2008 through the summer of 2010. He first attended the Olympics in 2010 as a member of the Gold Team and the U.S. Olympic Team. He now skis for Stratton Mountain School T2 out of Stratton, Vermont. A sprint specialist, you can watch Simi tonight, as he and teammate Erik Bjornsen take on the team sprint.
Cross country skier Noah Hoffman was a member of the SVSEF cross country program as a PG for two years, following graduation from Aspen High School in 2007. Pyeongchang is his second Olympic games; he represented the U.S. in Sochi, as well. Noah now trains under coach Zach Caldwell. Watch for Noah in the men’s 50km classic race this Saturday (Korea time)!
Photo by Reese Brown/SIA Nordic.
Jake Adicoff, 22, is representing the U.S. at the Paralymics for the second time. The cross country skier made his debut in Sochi in 2014, with fellow SVSEF alum Reid Pletcher as his guide in the visually impaired category (Jake is legally blind). His best finish was sixth in both the 20km classic and the 4×2.5km mixed relay. At the test event and para-nordic skiing world cup in Pyeongchang last March, Jake took home two golds and a bronze, and followed that up with a gold and silver at the IPC World Cup Finals in Sapporo, Japan. Jake, who started skiing with SVSEF in 2002, is completing his senior year at Bowdoin College in Maine, where he skis for the school and is double majoring in math and computer science. Jake and his guide, local Sawyer Kesselheim, take on their first event at the Paralympics on March 11 with the 20km freestyle.
Graham Watanabe, 35, grew up riding as a member of the SVSEF snowboard program. He excelled at the sport, and became the first American to win a Snowboardcross World Cup in Valle Nevado, Chile. Between 2004 and 2010, Graham garnered 17 top-10 World Cup finishes, and his talents led him to competition in Snowboardcross at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Games. Now based out of Salt Lake City, Graham is in his second season as head coach of the U.S. Adaptive Snowboard Team, and is leading the charge in Pyeongchang as head coach of the Paralympic Snowboard Team.
Photo courtesy of Graham Watanabe.