Cross-country skier Noel Keeffe could compete in the Olympics, but he has a lot of work to do
When it comes to competing in the Olympics, Steamboat Springs Nordic skier Noel Keeffe is on the bubble. The University of Utah athlete and member of the United States cross-country development team doesn’t have a schedule for the World Cup to start before the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean not that he’s out of the running for a chance to go to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.
“I’m obviously going to run as hard as I can,” Keeffe said. “And do my best in the United States, but it really depends on the performance of the World Cup team.”
There will be 296 cross-country athletes competing in Beijing, 148 per gender. The number of athletes from each country that can participate is determined by quota allocations, which countries earn by performing well at World Cup level.
As of November 26, eight women and five men from the United States could attend. Athletes in the distance and sprint disciplines are chosen based on their top five competitive results during the qualification period, between July 2019 and January 16, 2022.
The first US Ski and Snowboard takes a look at World Cup results, which Keeffe does not and will not have during this qualifying period.
However, the next thing to consider are the USA SuperTour competitions, which Keeffe will be competing in this winter. Then the North American Tour or Nor / Am competitions will be reviewed.
If not all of the quota spots are filled by World Cup athletes, Keeffe is one of the best development athletes who has a chance of being named to the team.
There are only five men in the A and B national teams, while Keeffe is a six in the development team.
“The US men’s team is getting more and more competitive every year,” said Keeffe. “Like last year, we had some of our best results ever.”
Keeffe grew up playing all the men on the national team, so he knows all the athletes who are vying for an Olympic spot.
“We have a super awesome atmosphere,” he said. “Everyone is really supportive and everyone is just trying to improve together.”
The past weekend proved that Keeffe and the rest of the development team have their work cut out for them. Team member James Schoonmaker finished seventh at a World Cup in Ruka, Finland. Two others finished in the top 30.
Meanwhile, Keeffe is in the United States preparing for the SuperTour, which kicks off Dec. 4 in Duluth, Minnesota and then Cable, Wisc. the following weekend. Next, he’ll compete in the national championships at Soldier Hollow, Utah, which serves as a race for the Olympic trials, according to Keeffe.
The veteran of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club did not change his training before the Olympic year. He skis the same amount, even though he has changed some of the specific things he does.
“I thought it’s never good to change what you do before and an important season or race,” he said.
Keeffe is also still a student at the University of Utah, skiing for the college team and studying materials science and engineering. Olympics or not, Keeffe will be a fast skier, a student and is aiming for the U23 World Championships in Lygan, Norway from February 22-27.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.