On May 26, Maddie Phaneuf wrote a crisp and revealing blog post about her struggle with mental health issues after the 2018 Olympics. The blog post was titled Invisible Battles, and like many who suffer from a mental health crisis, her struggle was real but often difficult to discuss candidly. Phaneuf does a great service to the community by describing the symptoms she experienced and how she sought help from mental health professionals.
Phaneuf was eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD as a result of falling ill with strep throat during the 2018 Games and being unable to race. The myopic pursuit of excellence and fulfilling the Olympic dream took an unexpected turn in PyeongChang that left her feeling like a fraud. She questioned her identity as an athlete as she contemplated leaving the sport. The let down of being named to the Olympic team then falling ill and not racing precipitated a downward spiral for the now twenty-four-year-old.
“When we learn about PTSD we usually tie it with war veterans, so it’s not common for people to associate PTSD with athletes,” Phaneuf wrote in her post.
Maddie Phaneuf at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. Phaneuf used this image in her blog post and titled it “Before shit hit the fan…” (Photo: courtesy Maddie Phaneuf)
In this episode, we speak with Phaneuf who has relocated to Lake Placid, New York after a stint in Boulder, Colo. She has since rekindled balance in her life and is pursuing a spot on the US Biathlon team. She also reflects on the importance of seeking professional help. That’s also a recommendation FasterSkier promotes.
Here’s some advice from Phaneuf on finding balance and maintaining wellness that was included in her blog post:
If you’re interested in non-therapy ways I’ve found help me feel more balanced and generally happy, here’s that list. Again, I’m not a health professional, if you’re struggling – talk to a professional.”
Getting outside and exercising
Less screen time
Journaling my feelings
Mediating or practicing Savasana
Surrounding myself with people I love
Getting enough sleep, eating well, and staying hydrated
Kelsey Phinney brings to the sport of cross-country skiing a big-world view as she has rolled with challenges and fine-tuned her athletic performances.
First things first: Phinney has become a voice for Parkinson’s Disease advocacy and education. She produced this great podcast episode for the Davis Phinney Foundation titled The Neuroscience of Parkinson’s — it’s part of a broader series from Phinney called The Parkinson’s Podcast.
Kelsey Phinney earlier this season in Lillehammer, Norway’s World Cup skate sprint. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)
Phinney’s father, himself a former professional cyclist who was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease in 2000, founded the Davis Phinney Foundation with his wife Connie Carpenter-Phinney.
So there is the high-quality high-impact work Kelsey Phinney has been engaged with. Then there’s the force she’s been on cross-country skis for many years. After graduating from Middlebury College, she spent two years with the SVSEF Gold Team. She then transferred to the SMS T2 group in the spring of 2018. She raced several World Cups this season with her best result a 19th in Lahti, Finland’s skate sprint. Phinney also placed third in the 2019 National Championship skate sprint in Craftsbury, Vermont.
Some skiing and some good work discussed in this episode.
“Everyday has been a new adventure,” were the words from the U.S. Ski Team’s (USST) Kevin Bolger as he summarized his first full-time season on the World Cup. At twenty-six-years-old, Bolger is a relatively new face on the team’s evolving crop of sprint skiers. He was re-nominated to the USST for a second consecutive year this past May.
Bolger’s ski path took him to Sun Valley for two seasons as a post-graduate skier. He matured physically and mentally to earn a roster spot on the University of Utah ski team and race in four NCAA skiing championships. Then he popped a classic sprint National Championship win in 2017. The following year he raced his first World Cup in Lahti, Finland — where he placed 11th overall.
Kevin Bolger the 2018 men’s classic sprint qualifier in Drammen, Norway. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)
Like any good younger brother, Bolger traveled abroad to visit older sibling Conor. The elder brother was pursuing a PhD in Trondheim, Norway. As a developing collegiate skier, the future USST athlete spent summers training with some of the fastest skiers in Norway.
Along with his current zippy speed, Bolger is the big-man of the USST as his 6’4″ frame fosters big lever power.
He is proudly Alaskan and has resisted the temptation over the years to migrate elsewhere. We are talking about twenty-nine-year-old Reese Hanneman who has in fact migrated from his hometown of Fairbanks to the more southern maritime climate of Anchorage, Alaska.
So the question has been, is Reese Hanneman retired? After many years on the SuperTour, winning five national titles, stints on the World Cup, and an Olympic team nomination last year, the answer to that question really is how you define retired. He’ll not be on the SuperTour — he did not contest any domestic races at that level this season — but you might find him racing in places like China.
If you follow Hanneman on Instagram, you’ll know his creative eye impresses. He is the founder of the creative PR agency the Ophira Group, and he is finishing his engineering degree. He still finds time to “train” but certainly, the hours are down.
We caught up with Reese Hanneman, the older of the two cross-country skiing Hanneman brothers, (Logan is 25) in mid-February after he had competed in the China Tour de Ski. (That race concluded in early January.)
In this episode, we speak with Estonian athlete Karel Tammjärv. If you are unfamiliar with the latest news, Tammjärve was arrested last week in Seefeld, Austria as part of an investigation into doping.
FasterSkier first contacted Tammjärv yesterday and in a quick turn of events, Tammjärv offered us an interview this morning. Although the interview was conducted on short notice, we had no pre-conditions when it came to the types of questions we could ask.
In this episode, we talk with Zuzana Rogers an Anchorage, Alaska based physical therapist who can often be found working with elite cross country skiers from APU and the U.S. Ski Team.
U.S. Ski Team physical therapist Zuzana Rogers with athlete Erik Bjornsen at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. (Courtesy photo)
We spoke with Rogers on February 19th when she was finishing up a pre-World Championships high altitude camp with the distance skiers in Davos, Switzerland. She currently is assisting U.S. skiers in Seefeld, Austria at the 2019 World Championships.
We talk about how to maintain basic wellness on the road, and what type of non-9 to 5 role she has with the U.S. Team.
FasterSkier’s American Birkebeiner coverage is made possible through the generous support of New Moon Ski & Bike in Hayward, Wisconsin. While you are at the Birkie be sure to visit New Moon Ski & Bike for all your local expertise.
In this quick-hit Nordic Nation episode, we speak with five-time American Birkebeiner winner Caitlin Gregg from her home in Minneapolis. Lucky for some, Gregg will not be starting Saturday’s race as she, along with her husband Brian Gregg – who remains a men’s race favorite – are new parents as of Feb. 5. We get the low down on strategy and conditions from Caitlin.
Caitlin Gregg (501) winning her fifth American Birkebeiner on Saturday in Hayward, Wisconsin, while skiing alongside her husband Brian Gregg (13), who placed 22nd in the elite men’s skate race. (Photo: ABSF/James Netz)
In the second half, we chat with Craftsbury Green Racing Project’s Akeo Maifeld-Carucci. At twenty-six, Akeo – we are going with first names here – has podiumed three times this season on the SuperTour. He’ll be starting his second Birkie tomorrow. Akeo provides some insight into his own race strategy, how not to lose a water bottle, and keeping the mind clear and sensible when you break a pole.
Simi Hamilton (left) Akeo Maifeld-Carucci (right) “logging” hours on the southeast shoulder of Mt. Jefferson in Oregon.
Putting yourself in another’s shoes – or ski-boots — is an age-old tenant. But it would be truly hard to imagine being twenty-one years old and thrust into the biathlon world spotlight. At least year’s Olympics in PyeongChang, Swedish biathlete Sabastian Samuelsson literally arrived on the scene in his canary yellow race suit — he won a silver in the pursuit and gold as a member of Sweden’s men’s relay team.
During his post-race press conferences, his condor was appreciated as was his down to earth vibe. The medals, the massive media attention, the desire for his limited time were all new pathways for a young person to navigate. In this Nordic Nation podcast, we spoke with Samuelsson on February 8 to learn about his life since PyeongChang.
Sebastian Samuelsson of Sweden celebrating silver in the men’s 12.5 k pursuit at his first Olympics on Monday in PyeongChang, South Korea. It was also his first non-relay podium at the World Cup/World Championships level. (Photo: IBU/Biathlonworld)
Beyond being one of the most recognizable faces in Sweden, Samuelsson has become an outspoken critic of WADA’s Compliance Review Committee (CRC) and its Executive Committee (EX CO). This past January, after RUSADA missed the Dec. 31 deadline for handing over the Moscow Lab’s LIMS data and any underlying data, Samuelsson penned an open letter to the CRC’s head, Jonathan Taylor.
Norway still dominates the World Cup. With both Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Heidi Weng wearing yellow bibs as overall World Cup Leaders, it seems not much has changed besides Weng supplanting Therese Johaug on the podium’s top step.
Norwegian Journalist John Rasmussen is our guest on Nordic Nation (Courtesy photo)
This past summer and fall, Norway’s cross-country community — which is arguably the entire nation — took a hit when both Sundby and Johaug were linked to doping. Much has been written about the technical aspects of their cases.
Nordic Nation reached out to Norwegian ski journalist John Rasmussen at Dagbladet, one of Norway’s leading newspapers. Rasmussen’s beat is the international and Norwegian ski scene. And since Google translate is not the most effective tool to go from Norwegian to English, we thought it best to get things straight from someone in the know.
“Doping in sport is so not on in this country,” Rasmussen said on the phone from Norway when we spoke on Dec. 15. “It’s considered such a shameful act, and particularly in cross-country, which is the national sport… If you’re caught cheating doing that, it’s probably like stealing from your neighbor. It’s not good.”
There’s more in this episode from Rasmussen. We talk of Johaug in the broader context of Norway’s sporting culture and the next steps in her doping case to be adjudicated late next month. There’s also some real world talk on what a parent says to a child who idolizes Johaug in a country where skiing is the sport of the people and the gods.
It’s worth asking this question: could an entire continent having a love affair with a sport that combines skate skiing and shooting be wrong? There’s the raw, heart-thumping power of the skiing mingled with the laser-focus almost the zen-like quality of shooting at a quarter-size target. Throw in a few thousand fans with cowbells, horns,and a long winter night’s worth of libations, and you’ve got a sport that either live in person or broadcast on a screen has captured the wintertime sport scene in Europe.
For the diehard nordic ski fan, International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cups have for sometime been easily streamable on the Internet. If you were disinterested in the shooting, there’s obviously the skiing. But understanding the shooting process — where athletes immerse themselves in a mind-body flow shooting at small targets sandwiched between full-throttle ski laps — broadens one’s appreciation for the sport.
Rosanna Crawford (Biathlon Canada) skiing the second-fastest course time of second-leg relay skiers in the Oslo World Cup relay in February 2015. (Photo: Biathlon Canada/NordicFocus.com)
In this episode of Nordic Nation, Biathlon Canada veteran Rosanna Crawford brings listeners into the shooting range — in fact she debriefs her world champs personal-best race at the 2016 IBU World Championships in Oslo, Norway.