Growing up in Paris, Maine, Assistant Nordic Ski Coach Leslie Bancroft Krichko never imagined herself representing the United States on the Olympic team once, let alone twice. But the new Bowdoin coach did exactly that, competing on behalf of the United States in 1980 and 1988.
“Skiing fast was a dream of mine,” Krichko said. “I feel fortunate that I wasn’t chasing an Olympic dream [specifically]. It was just there, and I became part of it. But then, getting there, there really is nothing like it.”
Though Krichko was able to become a two-time Olympian, her path was not easy. A severe foot injury caused her to miss the 1984 Olympics.
“I thought I was retired for good,” Krichko said.
Though the journeywas hard, Krichko reflects upon her first opening ceremony with a huge smile on her face.
“I still get choked up,” said Krichko. “I imagine my parents in the stands and how proud they must have been and all they had done for me to get to that point.”
Beyond a personal feat, Krichko’s participation in the 1980 and 1988 Olympics offered her a sense of national pride as she competed before a global audience.
“I’m in this cowboy hat. I’m walking,” said Krichko. “They told us when we walked past the vice president of the United States we were supposed to tip our hats. Something about that motion, just tipping my hat, flooded me with emotion.”
Among the rarities coupled with making it to the Olympics, according to Krichko, were the material perks.
“We could get tickets to everything,” Krichko said. “Of course our competitions came first, but I was able to go to all of these other events. All of the sponsors load you with gear gifts every day. It is really an out-of-body experience.”
Having experienced many different coaching styles over the course of her career, Krichko draws upon her own experience as a competitive racer and an Olympian to help connect with the athletes she trains at Bowdoin.
“I can empathize,” said Krichko. “I understand what they are going through emotionally and how distractions like school and relationships can affect your competitions.”
After only one season of working with the Bowdoin ski team, Krichko is impressed not only with its strong skiing performance but also in its close, communal nature. She credits Nathan Alsobrook, the head skiing coach, with helping to shape this welcoming team.
“He created this really tight-knit, passionate group of people that all have the love of skiing in common,” Krichko said. “They really enjoy each other, and it’s like he has created a family.”
Having not always experienced this team dynamic in her own athletic career, Krichko does not take it for granted.
“I just feel extremely lucky to be here,” she said.