Kendall Kramer competes at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 on Jan. 21, 2020 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Vallee de Joux, Switzerland -- Cross-country skiers Will Koch and Kendall Kramer made Team USA history on Tuesday, becoming the first Americans to clinch individual Youth Olympic medals in the sport. Koch earned bronze in the men’s 10-kilometer classic, as Kramer also clinched bronze in the women’s 5-kilometer classic.
After finishing just off the podium in their first two races of the Winter Youth Olympic Games, the skiers were determined to make the most of their final races in Lausanne.
“I felt disappointed after the sprint races... so what really motivated me today was thinking about how I want to make people back home proud when they see results,” said Kramer.
Koch, too, was motivated by his results earlier in the week, having finished just off the podium in fourth in the cross-country skicross event. But then he got sick, and was still working to get fully healthy for the individual event today.
“For a while I thought that was how it was going to stay, and that I was going to leave here having had fun but a little disappointed,” Koch explained, referring to his fourth-place finish. “This morning, though, I woke up and I said to myself, ‘Today is my day.’”
And so it was. Kramer clinched bronze with a time of 14:28.40 in her 5K race, rounding out the podium behind Sweden’s Maerta Rosenberg and Switzerland’s Siri Wigger. Teammate Sydney Palmer-Ledger finished just behind in fourth with a time of 14:43.3. Koch clinched his podium finish with a time of 27:29.5 in his 10K race, behind Russia’s Iliya Tregubov and Germany’s Elias Keck.
“That’s probably the hardest I’ve ever gone in a race,” said Koch.
After crossing the finish line, he fell to the snow and laid down to catch his breath, completely spent. When he had started to recover, he managed to glance at the results board - and grinned at what he saw.
“I turned over and looked up at the scoreboard and I saw my name in third place. I saw the stars and stripes in third and I was so happy when I saw that.”
For Koch, the venue was particularly special to him, as it is where his father, Olympian Bill Koch, won his first world cup race. His dad was there again today, cheering Will on and reporting his splits for him. His mom, sister, aunt and uncle were also there, cheering on at the finish, and he credits their support for his success.
“It absolutely makes a difference,” Koch said of his family’s support. “I would not have won my medal today if it weren’t for my family who was cheering me on there, and all my friends and other family watching from around the world.”
Kramer also had her support squad cheering her on, with her mom and grandfather wearing “Team Kramer” scarves on the course. To make their families proud, and the entire United States cross-country community proud, was especially important to Kramer and Koch.
“As soon as I knew that I was in the Youth Olympic Games, I really wanted to get a podium in this race specifically, so I’m really glad I could make the people back home proud and make myself proud,” said Kramer. “The U.S. cross-country team has been historically underrated and it’s not expected for us to be up there with the athletes from countries like Norway and Sweden...But I really, really enjoy every time that I can show that we are up to par with them and that we have the exact same training quality, and that we’re really catching up year by year.”
Prior to today’s races, Team USA had only earned a cross-country/biathlon mixed relay medal at the Youth Olympic Games in 2012. With Team USA’s first individual Youth Olympic medals in the sport, Koch and Kramer can wrap up their competitions celebrating the fact that they’ve written their names in the history books.
“I feel like I’m in a different world right now,” Koch said. “I feel like I’m floating on a cloud and it’s really amazing.”