LAKE PLACID - Haley Johnson may likely represent the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada in February, but this home-grown athlete still remains firmly rooted in the community.
Johnson, a 27-year-old native of Lake Placid, recently left for Sweden in preparation for the 2009-10 Biathlon World Cup. Over the next several weeks, she will have a series of opportunities to secure her place on the U.S. Olympic team.
"I am really excited about this upcoming season," said Johnson. "I head into winter training and the [World Cup] competitions the strongest I've ever been."
There are four slots open for the U.S. Olympic team for women's biathlon. Up to two women can qualify by finishing in the top 30 in any event on the World Cup circuit. Remaining slots will be filled in mid-January based on an Olympic qualifying event in Germany.
Johnson is one of three women on the U.S. World Cup team, all of whom competed in last year's World Cup. She was the only one with a top-30 finish in a major event, nabbing 23rd place in the 15 km individual race at the 2009 World Championships in Korea.
Still, the journey for this Olympic hopeful began with her father on a little slope behind her family's Lake Placid home where, at the age of two, she strapped on her first pair of skis.
She and her two younger siblings, Kara, 24, and Lars, 18, both accomplished skiers, each developed their skills early on the slopes of Whiteface and other nearby trails.
"My parents chose to raise us in the Adirondacks because of the outdoor opportunities and our family ties to the town," Johnson said, "and thus, from a very early age we all were very lucky to be involved with skiing."
The tradition of skiing in Johnson's family goes back quite a ways in Lake Placid. Her grandfather, Bill Hovey, was a prominent alpine and waterski instructor here in the 1950s, and a ski trail on Mount Whitney is named in tribute to him. Her father spent many years as a volunteer and freestyle youth coach for the New York Ski Education Foundation.