young snowboarder Callan Chythlook-Sifsof of Girdwood made history
on Monday when she capped a remarkable comeback season by becoming
what is believed to be the first Native Alaskan to earn a berth
on an Olympic team.
sure," said her mother Gloria, "she's the first Alaska
Eskimo in the history of the Olympics -- we've researched it."
was named to the Olympic team Monday afternoon, using a surge of
solid performances during the last few weeks to qualify. The news
capped a year of sometimes-painful rehabilitation for Chythlook-Sifsof,
a Yup'ik-Inupiaq who seriously tore her ACL at the beginning of
the 2008-09 World Cup season.
Ski and Snowboard Association president and CEO Bill Marolt announced
the roster of 18 snowboarders who will compete at Cypress Mountain
in Vancouver, British Columbia, next month.
are going in to the 2010 Games with one of the strongest athletic
lineups possible," U.S. Snowboarding head coach Peter Foley
said. "We're hoping to ... build on the successes we saw in
2006. This team is in position to do great things."
announcement came as Chythlook-Sifsof was en route to Aspen, Colo.,
for this weekend's X Games, where many Olympians will compete before
the Winter Games.
20, spent her early childhood in Aleknagik, north of Dillingham.
Marsh Mountain and 2,426-foot Mable Mountain were nearby, and Chythlook-Sifsof
began following her big brother Will into the hills.
loved to go snowmachineing and hiking to the mountain there,"
she told First Alaskans magazine in 2008, "and any time we
weren't doing that, we were messing around behind my grandfather's
house on snowboards, always together. 'C'mon sister, let's go,'
12, the family moved to Girdwood, where Chythlook-Sifsof's love
of snowboarding blossomed.
2006, she earned a berth on the national team.
year later, Chythlook-Sifsof landed on the podium in her first World
Cup snowboardcross in Japan, finishing third. That same year, she
bagged a national championship.
She competes in snowboardcross, a race in which four snowboarders
start simultaneously atop a course full of jumps, berms, steeps
and flats that challenges riders' ability to stay in control. Collisions
are common. It debuted in the Winter Olympics four years ago, when
Lindsey Jacobellis of Vermont took the silver medal.
just a year and a half ago, after a fall in the World Cup opener,
Chythlook-Sifsof was in braces and crutches after reconstructive
surgery, unable to support her weight for a 12 weeks. Back then,
even sleep didn't provide much of a respite. For a while, Chythlook-Sifsof
was hooked up to a perpetual-motion machine that forced her leg
into a constant cycling motion as she slept. The motion promoted
healing and helped ward off deconditioning.
and physical therapists at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula
Vista, Calif., worked on her for a month, trying to strengthen her
leg, particularly her quad muscle.
months of grueling rehabilitation, Chythlook-Sifsof said her knee
felt as good as new.
a big injury," she acknowledged in August. "But everybody
in the sport pretty much gets those at one time or another."
not just snowboarders. Such famed athletes as New England Patriots
quarterback Tom Brady and golfer Tiger Woods have managed to overcome
ACL problems. Others have succumbed to them.
athletes are as much as eight times more prone to ACL tears than
men because the angle formed by a woman's hip and her knees puts
the ligament under more pressure. About a quarter of the women who
tear their ACL do so again after reconstructive surgery.
Honeyman, the head physical therapist for U.S. Snowboarding, marveled
at Chythlook-Sifsof's attitude.
has been extremely dedicated to her rehabilitation and her strength
and conditioning in the past year," Honeyman said in August.
"She stands in a great position to return from this injury
in some ways better than before.
who know Callan know that the one thing that she loves to do is
snowboard, and this is all the motivation in the world for her.
Callan would snowboard all day and all night if she could."
Chythlook-Sifsof flew all day and night -- some 8,200 miles from
Anchorage to Argentina -- for her first World Cup race after rehabilitation
last September, but head coach Foley held her out because warm weather
made the last jump on the course dangerous.
didn't want to expose her to that kind of risk this early in her
recovery," he said in September.
followed up by reeling off four finishes in the top-21 on the World
Cup tour, including a 14th place in Switzerland last month, to boost
been so much work," said Gloria Chythlook, Callan's mom. "People
think how exciting it is and how glamorous it is. But in reality,
it's summoning up every bit of strength and resources you have.
people sort of quit when it gets a little hard because, really,
it takes so much work
worked so hard and been so focused. She told me the other day, 'Mom,
this is the Nobel Prize of athleticism.' "
will join Jacobellis and 18-year-old Faye Gulini of Salt Lake City
on the snowboardcross team. Four women were named to the halfpipe
team and just one, Michelle Gorgone of Boston, earned a spot on
the parallel giant slalom team. Gorgone was a teammate of Rosey
Fletcher of Girdwood four years ago in Italy when Fletcher won a
records documenting the ethnicity of every Olympian from Alaska
do not exist, state Rep. Reggie Joule, D-Kotzebue, a standout Native
games athlete and member of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, said
he believes Chythlook-Sifsof is the first Alaska Native Olympian.
Boozer, who attended high school in Juneau, became the first black
Olympian from Alaska when he earned a bronze medal on the 2004 U.S.
Olympic basketball team. Scott Gomez, an East High graduate and
the first Latino player in the National Hockey League, became the
first Hispanic Alaskan to play in the Olympics four years ago.
Vancouver Winter Games begin Feb. 12. The women's snowboardcross
race is Tuesday Feb. 16.
reporter Mike Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4329.
Callan Chythlook-Sifsof was raised in a rural village in the Wood-Tikchik
State Park, on the Bering Sea coast of Alaska. She began snowboarding
on the surrounding mountains, snowmachining as far as her family
would take her and following her brother's lead to the summits.
At 12, the family moved to Girdwood, Alaska, home of Alyeska Ski