Cross country skier Marc Gilbertson doesn’t have a coach and has never competed in a World Cup Race. But that isn’t stopping the 28-year-old school teacher from competing in the Olympics in February.
The Colby College graduate beat out five members of the U.S. cross country ski team and 43 other hopefuls Tuesday to earn a spot in the Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
In Lake Placid, N.Y., Gilbertson plowed over a 30-kilometer course of newly fallen snow in 1 hour, 28 minutes and 37.8 seconds. He came out more than two minutes ahead of runner up, Pete Vordenberg of Boulder, Colo.
Scott Loomis of Yarmouth, Maine, finished ninth at 1:36.11.1.
After the winners of a 10-kilometer classical race Thursday and a 15K freestyle pursuit race Friday, the coaching staff will use its discretion to fill out the roster.
Gilbertson said he knew his chances of getting picked were slim.
“They’re not going to take a 28-year-old school teacher on discretion,” he said. “I had to win.”
Without a coach or a listing in the U.S. Ski Association media guide, Gilbertson won the race that mattered the most.
Earlier this month, Gilbertson and Loomis were the top Americans in consecutive weekend events in Alberta, Canada, and Spokane, Wash.
“He’s been skiing well all year,” Loomis said. “It’s good to see him up there.”
But until recently, Gilbertson was rarely on the national skiing scene. As a high school senior from Montpelier, Vt., he finished 17th in the state meet. At Division II Colby in Waterville, he won regional events but didn’t compete outside the East.
Now teaching geography and history at a junior high school in Hyde Park, Vt., Gilbertson has raced locally for the last six years.