Two more Mainers are set to compete at the Winter Olympics that begin next weekend in Beijing, China.
Sophia Laukli of Yarmouth is the most recent addition to Team USA, having been nominated to the U.S. Olympic cross country ski team, while Clare Egan of Cape Elizabeth earlier qualified for her second straight Olympic appearance in the biathlon.
“I’m so so excited,” Laukli said after her selection. “It’s pretty incredible to actually be named to the Olympic team and I still haven’t fully wrapped my mind around it.”
Laukli and Egan join Portland native Emily Sweeney (luge), Bethel resident and University of Maine graduate Frankie Del Duca (bobsled) and fellow University of Maine graduate Jimmy Reed (bobsled) among the 2022 Olympians with Maine connections.
Five current or former University of Maine women’s ice hockey players also are bound for Beijing, with a sixth Black Bear an alternate for her country’s Olympic team.
The 21-year-old Laukli was named to the U.S. Olympic team last Thursday, capping a rapid rise from her domination of the Maine high school Nordic skiing scene until her graduation from Yarmouth High School in 2018 — she won every race she entered as a senior — to her success collegiately, first at Middlebury and now at the University of Utah.
Laukli placed fifth in a 15-kilometer mass start race and was part of a silver medal-winning U.S. relay team at the Nordic Junior World Championships in Germany in March 2020. A week later she earned All-American honors by finishing second in the 5K freestyle at the NCAA Championships in Bozeman, Montana — just before the rest of the meet was canceled due to the arrival of COVID-19.
The dual U.S. and Norwegian citizen — her father Bjorn was an All-American cross-country skier at the University of Colorado during the early 1990s — subsequently was selected for the U.S. cross country ski program’s women’s development team.
Laukli made her FIS World Cup debut in a 15-kilometer skiathlon in Lahti, Finland, on Jan. 23, 2021, and her best finish on that circuit came earlier this month with a fifth-place effort in a 10-kilometer mass start event at Val di Fiemme, Italy.
She also ranked 23rd in the 2021-22 FIS Tour de Ski standings and was the second-leading American on that circuit behind 2018 Olympic team sprint gold medalist and 2020-2021 FIS World Cup overall champion Jesse Diggins.
Laukli this week was selected to represent the United States at the 2022 FIS Junior and U23 World Cross Country Championships set for Feb. 22-27 in Lygna, Norway, but declined due to her Olympic opportunity.
“Even just a year ago, the Olympics seemed far-fetched, so it feels pretty surreal,” Laukli said. “That being said, I am so excited and grateful for the opportunity. It’s definitely a proud moment and I’m looking forward to the whole experience and learning a lot from it, and I especially can’t wait to see what the U.S. team can do this year.”
Egan qualified for Beijing last season and has said that this will be her last year competing for Team USA.
The 2006 graduate of Cape Elizabeth High School is a veteran of the World Cup biathlon scene, having debuted at the sport’s top level in 2015.
The 34-year-old Egan has scored eight top-10 World Cup finishes during her career and enters the Beijing Games coming off her second-best career finish, a fourth-place effort in a 15-kilometer individual race on Jan. 21 at Antholz-Anterselva, Italy.
She teamed with fellow Olympians Susan Dunklee, Deedra Irwin and Joanne Reid to finish fifth in the team relay the next day and placed 22nd last Sunday in the 12.5-kilometer mass start race.
Egan’s best career finish in World Cup competition is third place in a mass start race at the 2019 World Cup final in Oslo, Norway.
She finished 18th overall in the 2018-19 World Cup standings and 36th in the 2020-21 season.
Egan also has competed for the United States in six World Championships as well as the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Egan was elected in 2018 as chair of the International Biathlon Union Athletes’ Committee, a term that ends this year.
The Winter Olympics are set to run Feb 4-20.