Olympics Corner: Two alpine skiers join U.S. Team last minute

by Caitlyn McGovern | 2/19/18 2:05am

In the final days leading up to the start of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, two current Dartmouth students were added to Team USA’s roster for alpine skiing: Alice Merryweather ’21 and Tricia Mangan ’19, neither of whom competed with Dartmouth’s ski team this season.

On Jan. 26, Steven Nyman, a veteran skier who had just recovered from a knee injury sustained while racing in 2017, tore his ACL in the opposite knee 364 days after his previous injury on the same mountain while racing in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. As a result, Merryweather was named Nyman’s replacement on Feb. 3 and made her way to Pyeongchang.

Merryweather, who hails from Hingham, Massachusetts, clicked on her first set of skis at four years old and furthered her racing career at Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, which has a premier alpine program focused on training student-athletes. At only 21 years old, she is younger than the average Olympic athlete for Team USA, which is 26.5 years old.

In 2014 and 2015, Merryweather competed on the Junior World Championship Team and was named to the Team USA Alpine Skiing D Team in 2016. In that same year, she raced for the first time in the World Cup in Altenmarkt, Austria, taking on the slopes in the downhill race. Since then, she has moved to the Alpine B Team and the Olympic stage. Merryweather has also had an exciting year, winning the downhill FIS Junior World Ski Championship in Åre, Sweden last March and placing 19th in the FIS World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colorado just a week later. Later last year she also competed for the first time in the World Cup giant slalom race in Killington, Vermont and in the FIS World Cup super G event in Val d’Isere, France where she finished 24th.

Merryweather’s focus has mainly been on speed skiing events. However, at the Olympics she competed in the slalom, where athletes must ski between either gates or poles as they navigate the mountain. Out of 81 athletes, Merryweather placed 42nd with a time of 1:53.57, putting her 14.94 seconds behind first-place finisher Frida Hansdotter of Sweden. After the Olympics, Merryweather plans to start her first year at Dartmouth in the spring.

Joining Merryweather in Pyeongchang is 20-year-old Mangan. On Feb. 3, Mangan was competing at the World Junior Championships in Switzerland when she got the call that she would be replacing Jackie Wiles, who broke her fibula and tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus at another ski competition in Germany. With this last minute substitution, Mangan is the final person named to the United States Olympic team this year and the 244th athlete competing for Team USA.

Mangan has been skiing since she was two years old and grew up taking on the mountains in Ellicottville, New York with the Holimont Race Team. She attended Nardin Academy in Buffalo, New York and is studying at biomedical engineering at Dartmouth. The upstate native competed with the National Training Group and has since been named to the Team USA Alpine B Team. In 2016, she medaled at the U.S. Alpine Championship, and finished 19th in alpine combined at the 2018 World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. At the 2018 FIS Junior World Ski Championships in February, she placed fourth in the Super-G.

Unfortunately, Mangan fell after losing her balance during her first run in the giant slalom, causing her to go airborne and hit a restraining barrier. As a result of this crash, she was one of 11 skiers who failed to complete the first run and placed at the bottom of the group. Since only the top 30 athletes qualify for the second run, she did not move on. Mangan is also slotted to compete in the super combined later this week.

The U.S. alpine ski team is made up of 64 percent returning athletes, so new blood in the Olympic competition with the additions of Mangan and Merryweather is exciting. With these two additions, Dartmouth now has a total of 16 athletes and two coaches competing in the Olympic or Paralympic Games, a new record for the College.

This is the fourth installment in the Dartmouth’s 2018 Winter Olympics coverage.