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January 29. 2014 10:55PM

Sochi surge

Late surge to Sochi for Hanover skier


Julia Krass of Hanover skis during the U.S. Grand Prix Women's Slopestyle Freestyle Skiing at Copper Mountain in Colorado last month. Krass was named to the U.S. Olympic team earlier this week and departed Wednesday for Russia. (Nathan Bilow-USA TODAY Sports)

HANOVER — When slopestyle skier Julia Krass took first place in a competition in Utah, she locked up a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. The only problem was that she had no passport.

A 16-year-old Hanover High School junior, Krass was considered a long shot for an Olympic berth. But in the final qualifying event, the Jan. 18 Visa Freeskiing Grand Prix at Park City, she made the U.S. coaches' decision for them.

"Going into that last event she was sitting at sixth," her father, Peter Krass, said. "Julia just sort of swooped in like the dark horse, I guess. So it took a lot of people by surprise."

"It caught her by surprise in some respects, but that was the goal going into the competition."

The younger Krass was so caught by surprise, her father said, that she hadn't secured a passport or visa to travel to Sochi, Russia, where she will compete as part of the four-member U.S. slopestyle squad.

"Everyone (else) on that team got their visas back in the fall in the hopes they would make the Olympic team," Peter Krass said.

Unlike other aspiring Olympic slopestylers, Julia had not spent her summer training and competing, Peter Krass said. Moreover, he added, while other members of the U.S. program were competing in New Zealand in August and training in Europe during the fall, his daughter was going to school and playing for the Hanover High girls'soccer team.

"She was completely out of the picture," her father said.

But she started on the Grand Prix circuit this season and began studying with an online charter school to accommodate her skiing schedule, Peter Krass said. Then, suddenly, it seemed, it was time to pack for Sochi.

"When she got selected at the very last minute, we had to fly back here and get her a valid passport," Krass said.

"Somewhere there was a glitch in the paperwork," he continued, noting the problem could have taken up to three weeks to clear up.

The Krass family was told to have their federal representatives contact the Russian embassy to fast-track the application process, so Monday evening they contacted the offices of U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.

Both offices responded swiftly, Peter Krass said, and Julia received her passport and visa Tuesday night — in time to fly out of Salt Lake City on Wednesday morning with the U.S. Ski Team.

"They were really helpful," Peter Krass said of Ayotte's and Kuster's staffs. "They got on the problem right away and did what they could to move the process along."

Now, he and his wife, Diana, are scrambling to get their own passports and visas so they can attend the Olympics and see Julia compete in the slopestyle competition on Feb. 11.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Peter Krass said.

Originally from Connecticut, the Krass family moved to Hanover when Julia was 2 years old.

She started skiing at Whaleback Mountain in Enfield at the age of 2½, her father said. When she was 7, she started skiing with a freestyle team at Whaleback that was founded by Olympian Evan Dybvig. A few years ago, Julia started spending her winters training at Waterville Valley Academy.

Now she's in Sochi along with the rest of the U.S. Olympians, including another Hanover High Marauder, 2004 graduate Hannah Kearney, the reigning gold medalist in freestyle moguls.

mpierce@newstote.com



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