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Whitefish natives Voisin, Sanderson heading to Olympics

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By Michah Drew FLATHEAD BEACON

KALISPELL – On Jan. 9, Maggie Voisin was at Mammoth Mountain Resort competing in the U.S. Grand Prix, searching for a spot on her third Olympic team.

In her second run of the competition, the 23-year-old skier, who grew up in Whitefish, cleanly hit the three large red rail features, catapulted off a jump into a right-side 900 with a tail grab and smoothly landed a switch 720, a big run that pushed her onto the podium in third place, the Flathead Beacon reported.

Her performance clinched her spot on the U.S. Freeskiing Slopestyle team for the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, which are set to begin on Feb. 4.

“I really don’t have words,” Voisin said in a post-competition interview. “To say I’m going to my third Olympic games is a dream come true. It took a lot to get here, the past couple years I’ve gone through a lot personally and with my body and injuries.”

Voisin learned to ski at Whitefish Mountain Resort, strapping on her first pair of skis at the age of two. At the age of 15, she was the youngest U.S. Olympian to qualify for the Sochi Olympics, but she was unable to compete after suffering an ankle fracture during a training run.

Since that experience, Voisin has experienced extreme highs and lows. After healing her ankle, Voisin tore her ACL in her return to competition, sidelining her for another nine months. But then in 2017, Voisin won her first World Cup competition, an Olympic Qualifier on the same Mammoth Mountain slopes she competed on last month. In 2018, she became the first American woman to ever earn the gold medal in slopestyle skiing at the X games in Aspen, Colorado, and she once again represented America in the Olympics.

In PyeongChang, after narrowly making the finals, Voisin put together a spectacular last run that launched her into medal position. She could only watch, however, as Great Britain’s Isabel Atkin put together a run that nudged Voisin out of the bronze and into fourth place, an agonizingly close near-miss that was a monumental achievement all the same, and led to Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld proclaiming March 7, 2018 “Maggie Voisin Day.”

Once again, Voisin is aiming for the medal stand, and her performances since PyeongChang prove that she’s a bonafide national asset to bring home the gold. The freeski slopestyle qualifying runs will begin on Feb. 13.

Voisin won’t be the only member of Team USA who has ties to the Flathead Valley. Another Whitefish-born athlete, hockey player Jake Sanderson, will also be in Beijing chasing the podium.

The Whitefish native currently plays for the University of North Dakota and has been consistently ranked as one of the top skaters in the country. In 2020, he was selected as the fifth overall selection of the NHL draft by the Ottawa Senators, and was named captain of the 2022 U.S. National Junior team.

In December, the NHL announced they were not going to send players to the Olympics, for the second Games in a row, opening the door of opportunity to a slew of talented collegians.

“Becoming a member of the 2022 U.S. Olympic team is an amazing accomplishment for our hometown boy who grew up playing youth hockey in Whitefish,” Glacier Hockey Association President Clint Muhlfeld wrote in an email to the Beacon. “Not only will he be one of the first teens to play in thirty years, but he will also become the first player in Montana’s history to wear the stars and stripes in the Olympics. He’s a testament to the level of hockey players that Montana is producing now.”

In 2018, the U.S. men’s hockey team advanced to the quarter finals before losing 3-2 to the Czech Republic.

The men’s tournament in Beijing will begin with four days of preliminary rounds. The United States will play its preliminary round games on Feb. 10, 12 and 13 against China, Canada and Germany.

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