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  • Kendra Zamzow

Team Sapmi Dominates Cross Country Ski Sprint

Four girls in skin-tight leggings leapt forward as the starting horn blared. Less than one minute later, two members of Team Sapmi skidded across the finish line like baseball players sliding to home base. 

“I try to get out in front right away,” Ebba Stina Rimpi said. 

That strategy sure seemed to work. Ebba had just won the gold ulu in the 400-600 m cross country ski sprint for U14 girls with a time of 52:29 seconds. Her friend Alma Svonni grabbed the silver two seconds later at 54:09 seconds. Cali Zuber of Team Alaska took the bronze ulu followed by teammates Talia Smith and Solvej Lunoe in fourth and fifth place.

Ebba had a full support team on the sidelines. Her grandfather Paul Rimpi cheered as he raced up and down the sidelines, Sapmi flags sprouting from a black backpack, “Hey ya NA!”

Grandmother Susanne Rimpi waved a flag and her father and coach Christian Rimpi cheered alongside teammates dressed in navy blue down jackets with “SAPMI” in bold yellow on the back.

“It was a very tough race,” Ebba said. “The competition is very good, very very fast.” 

This was Ebba’s first Arctic Winter Games. She made quite an impression, winning an Ulu in all three of her races. In addition to the gold Ulu for the sprint, Ebba won the gold ulu for the 3.75 km classic ski and the bronze for the 3.75 km free technique ski. 

 “And it is so great that my friend Alma got the silver in this (sprint) race. And the opening ceremony was really nice; it felt like home with all the sharing.”

Ebba and her grandparents are from the towns of Jokkmokk and Falun, Sweden. This is the first time she and her grandmother had been to Alaska. 

“It’s just wonderful,” Susanna said. “The sun, the people, there is good energy everywhere and with each other. And yesterday we drove towards Denali and had a picnic where we could see the mountain.” Or most of the mountain, she said.  The peak was too shy to show.

It wasn’t the first time for Ebba’s grandfather and father, though. They had been here in 1990 for moose hunting, and Christian came again in 2004 on a scholarship to compare moose management in Alaska to that in Sweden, “In Sweden we have the highest moose population in the world.”

If this race was any indication, they also have some of the fastest young skiers in the world.


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