A view from Vancouver
February 16, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
Sammamish skier chases dream downhill to the Olympics
The dream stretched back to childhood, when Yina Moe-Lange strapped on a pair of skis and took to the slopes. Through the years and countless downhill runs, she honed her skill with a singular goal in mind: competing in the Winter Olympics.
Moe-Lange, 16, assumed she might be too young to compete when the Olympics opened in Vancouver, British Columbia, and skiers competed in alpine events about four hours from Sammamish, where she and her family moved in 2005.
The premier skiers — like, say, Lindsey Vonn — reach peak ability in their 20s, so Moe-Lange trained with the 2014 Winter Olympics in mind. About a month ago, however, she received word from Denmark: Moe-Lange, a Danish citizen, had been selected to compete in the games, then just a few weeks distant.
The dream to compete in the Winter Olympics turned to reality ahead of schedule.
Moe-Lange donned a red-and-black uniform Feb. 12 to march alongside other Danish athletes during the opening ceremony. The skier will race in the giant slalom and slalom events Feb. 24 and 26.
“I feel pretty excited; I don’t know what to expect,” Moe-Lange said during a phone interview from Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in California, days after the Danish team selected her.
Experts do not consider Moe-Lange — among the youngest Olympians at the games — to be a medal contender, but the competition will ready her for next Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Still, the decision surprised her and her father, Danny Lange, a Microsoft employee.
“She had a dream and she’s fulfilling it at 16,” he said.
Lange worked not to raise expectations for Moe-Lange, his oldest daughter. Although she had endured years of intense training, the announcement from the Danish team “came out of the blue,” Lange said.
The former Skyline High School student started skiing at age 3 in Japan, where her family lived and her mother, Eva Jacobsen, worked as a diplomat. The family moved to California when Moe-Lange was 4, after her father accepted a job in Silicon Valley. Family ski trips at Lake Tahoe turned into regular outings.
A coach noticed Moe-Lange when the skier was young, and encouraged her parents to enroll her in a ski team. Moe-Lange won her first race when she was 8. The experience stoked her dream to someday compete in the Winter Olympics.
“Very early on, she would ski in a very beautiful way,” Lange said.
Moe-Lange attends a private school in Woodinville because the demands of training do not jibe with the public-school calendar, but she will serve as a captain for the Skyline cross-country team next fall. The skier has also run and volunteered as a coach with the Issaquah Gliders running club.
Moe-Lange competes with Team Alpental Snoqualmie. The proximity to Snoqualmie Pass, and access to Interstate 90, led her family to move to Sammamish.
Nowadays, Moe-Lange competes in dozens of events each winter. Throughout December and January, she traveled 15,000 miles to compete in 26 races across the United States and Canada.
The competition schedule means Moe-Lange spends, maybe, a week at home each month during the winter. Despite the long separations, Lange and Jacobsen talk to their daughter every day when she travels.
In the days before the opening ceremony, Moe-Lange settled in with the Danish team at the Olympic Village in Whistler, British Columbia — the site of the alpine skiing venue. Meanwhile, her family worked to score last-minute tickets to the Feb. 24 and 26 skiing events.
The family had no plans to attend the Winter Olympics. A coworker offered to help the family buy tickets. Acquaintances offered a condo as a place for the family to stay during the competition.
“I would normally avoid the circus,” Lange said.
When she takes to the slopes at the Winter Olympics, the course will be familiar terrain: Moe-Lange has raced in Whistler before. Although a medal seems unlikely, she hopes to place in the top 30 during the first run of the giant slalom.
After the Olympics close in late February, Moe-Lange will start training for the next games in Sochi, the Black Sea resort set to host the 2014 competition. Then the skier will resume her off-season routine. For the next week, however, she plans to savor the experience in Whistler.
“This has always been a childhood dream,” she said. “I didn’t know that it would ever happen.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.