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UPDATED: Aggie alum gets her turn in the Olympics today

2.20.2014

Photo: Brita Sigourney doing a trick in the half-pipe.

Sigourney, who attended UC Davis from 2008 to 2011, does a high-flying trick in the half-pipe. (Shay Williams/Monster Energy)

PRESIDENT AND PHYSICIAN

Who else from UC has something to do with the Olympics?

Let’s start with President Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet before joining UC last Sept. 30.

She’s leading the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony in Sochi this week (after leading the delegation to the closing ceremony four years ago in Vancouver).

Physician James Van den Bogaerde, a faculty member in the School of Medicine and a former competitive skier, provided medical coverage for U.S. alpine skiers during their training (but he is not going to Sochi).

Van den Bogaerde is an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, specializing in arthroscopic and reconstructive surgery for athletic shoulder, elbow and knee injuries.

His research focuses on training techniques to help prevent sports injuries and surgical repair techniques that improve outcomes in ligament stability and function.

He’s among the many UC Davis affiliates on our experts list for the Olympics.

UPDATE 6:30 a.m. Feb. 20: Watch this event by live stream now and on NBC TV tonight.

•••

By Dave Jones

Brita Sigourney gave up Hickey Pool for the snow and a shot at the Olympics — and she made it! Tuesday (Feb. 4), the Aggie departs for Sochi, Russia, as a freeskier on the U.S. team.

Photo: Brita Sigourney

Sigourney

Sigourney, from Carmel, enrolled at UC Davis in 2008 and left early, in 2011, to join the newly established U.S. Freeskiing team. She competes in half-pipe, doing twists and turns as she flies above the lip on one side of the pipe, then skis up the other side and flies out for another trick — and on and on.

You may have seen snowboarders like Shaun White on the Olympic half-pipe. In freeski half-pipe, new to the Olympics this year, the competitors are on skis — two of them!

See Sigourney do a 1080, a 1,080-degree revolution (that's three times around), in the half pipe (video). Follow her on the Web, Twitter and Instagram.

Sigourney followed her parents — Thad and Julie, both ’76, and brother Brendan ’09 to UC Davis. Brendan played on the Intercollegiate Athletics water polo team, and Brita played with the women’s water polo sport club.

She also kept up her skiing, winning a junior world title in 2010 and a silver medal in the X Games in 2011 — until deciding to leave school to focus on her skiing alone.

In the 2012 season, she took a bronze medal in the X Games and won a pair of U.S. competitions before sustaining a knee injury. She returned in the 2013 season, earned a first place and a third place, then took a fall in a test event in Sochi, suffering a broken collarbone and a shoulder injury — and reinjuring her knee.

She returned strong this winter, earning a bronze medal in the Breckenridge (Colorado) Dew Tour and a gold at the Copper Mountain (Colorado) Grand Prix before securing her Olympic berth on Jan. 17, the day she turned 24.

“You guys … I’m going to Sochi!!!! Best bday present ever,” she said from Park City, Utah, in a tweet that ended with a smiley face. A week later, she competed in the X Games in Aspen, Colo., placing fifth.

Her turn to compete in Sochi comes on Thursday, Feb. 20 — with qualifying runs and finals all on the same day. 

Sigourney hasn’t given up school, attending classes in summer and fall at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

No Olympic repeat for Azevedo

A second UC Davis athlete, Emily Azevedo ’05, had hopes of being in Sochi for her second Olympics — her second WINTER Olympics, despite her background in track and field.

She held the UC Davis record in the 100-meter hurdles (outdoors) at 14.23 seconds — a 2005 record that held until April 2008, putting Azevedo second on the all-time list.

In 2006, inspired by what she saw on television from the Winter Games in Torino, Italy, she set her sights on being a bobsledder. Many other runners have gone the same route, putting their speed and strength to work as “pushers,” who help get their sleds off to fast starts.

Officially, Azevedo is a “brakeman.” She and the driver push the sled to get it going, then they jump into their seats for a very fast ride. The driver, of course, does the steering; the brakeman activates the sled’s brake at the end.

Azevedo has been a member of the national team every year since 2006-07, placed fifth in the Vancouver Games of 2010 (with driver Bree Schaff) and was the most experienced brakeman on this year’s team as it competed through the winter — during which time she posted three fourth-place finishes (with two drivers) in World Cup events.

When selection day came Jan. 19 for the Sochi Games, Azevedo and Katie Eberling lost out to Lolo Jones, a former Olympic hurdler, for the last of three brakeman slots.

What's next for Azevedo? Read her "New Adventures" blog post.

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