Birkie notebook: Legendary Ulvang still has his speedSix-time Olympic medalist Vegard Ulvang of Norway said he wasn’t going for victory in the days leading up to Saturday’s 39th American Birkebeiner.
By: Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune
HAYWARD — Six-time Olympic medalist Vegard Ulvang of Norway said he wasn’t going for victory in the days leading up to Saturday’s 39th American Birkebeiner.
Could have fooled us.
Ulvang, 48, showed he’s still got plenty of speed, losing by less than 2 seconds in the Birkie Classic to David Chamberlain of Caribou, Maine, who covered the 54 kilometers in 2 hours, 51 minutes, 15.2 seconds.
Ulvang won three gold medals at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics.
“It’s been 20 years since I’ve earned some medals, so this was nice,” Ulvang said. “This is a very historic race, and the atmosphere and people here were terrific. I think I signed more autographs here than I ever did in Norway. My hand is sore. It was fun to race while at the same time contribute to a good cause.”
Ulvang’s appearance was similar to that of Bjorn Daehlie in 2009 as Ulvang appeared on behalf of the Multiple Sclerosis Society as a research ambassador.
Afterward, Ulvang, the executive director of the International Ski Foundation, was asked about what it would take to get a World Cup event in the U.S. Ulvang said it was more about economics than politics, because based on the Birkie, Americans know how to put on a good race, Ulvang said.
“The course was in fantastic shape,” Ulvang said. “I liked that the hills were nice and small — perfect for an old man like me.”
In the women’s Birkie Classic, Ely native and former Wisconsin-Green Bay skier Carolyn Ocariz (formerly Freeman) cruised to victory in 3:03:10.9, more than 2 minutes ahead of runner-up Brandy Stewart of Bozeman, Mont.
Ocariz trains with CXC Team of Hayward.
“I felt like I got better as the race went on,” Ocariz said.
Considering the unusual weather year, Saturday’s sunny 20-degree day was ideal.
“It’s pretty amazing when you think that just five or 10 miles south of here, there is hardly any snow at all,” said Brian Gregg, who finished third in the Birkie Skate men’s race.