HomeAuthor Nathaniel Herz

Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.
https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/03/Group11032022fm1277-1200x720.jpg

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — A month ago, I met with a source close to the Chinese government in a tiny room in this mountain resort outside Beijing, which hosted the 2022 Olympic cross-country skiing events.  There, the source explained how a decision by international skiing officials to disqualify a Chinese cross-country skier from a race was like killing a baby. China does not have, exactly, a long tradition of success in winter sports like cross-country skiing. But...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/PHOTO-2022-02-26-21-02-22-e1646084641181-1200x720.jpg

U.S. cross-country skier Kevin Bolger and Swedish racer Maja Dahlqvist met during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus kept them six feet apart during the Olympics — except one celebratory hug. ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — American Olympic cross-country skier Kevin Bolger grew up in Wisconsin. His girlfriend, Olympian Maja Dahlqvist, is from Sweden. During the Olympics, in China, they got to spend a couple of weeks in the same place. Among their options for dates: • Go cross-country...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Group31122021fm08557-1200x720.jpg

The International Ski Federation hasn’t said whether the races, in the Siberian city of Tyumen, will go off as scheduled next month. The U.S. cross-country ski team says it will skip upcoming races in Russia amid that country’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine. A team official said Thursday that the Americans will skip the final weekend of racing on the top-level European World Cup circuit, which is scheduled for next month in the Siberian city of...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/IMG_1730-1280x720.jpg

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — Just about everyone involved with the U.S. Ski Team has a story about physiotherapist Zuzana Rogers fixing some weird corner of their body. “I had a dislocated cuboid bone, and she diagnosed it over Skype and essentially talked me through repositioning it, and I was better,” said Holly Brooks, the retired Olympic cross-country skier from Alaska. “It was insane.” Eli Brown, one of the team’s ski technicians, thought he had an Achilles...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Brennan20022022fm02627-1200x720.jpg

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — Jessie Diggins’ silver medal, the best-ever individual Olympic finish by an American woman, is what most people will remember from Sunday’s Games-ending cross-country ski race. Here’s why you should remember Rosie Brennan, too. Brennan, 33, may lack Diggins’ magazine covers and national endorsement deals. But she performed at ever-so-close to the same level in Beijing, and came heartbreakingly close to the medals. First, there was Brennan’s fourth place in the Games-opening individual...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Diggins20022022fm02527-1200x720.jpg

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — American alpine racing superstar Mikaela Shiffrin struggled at the Olympics, failing to bring home any medals. Last week, she posted a message to social media broadcasting some of the hateful criticism she’d received during the Games, telling her audience that “there will always be turkeys” and that it’s “not the end of the world to fail.” Cross-country star Jessie Diggins, after winning a silver in her final race of the Games —...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Bury19222vt053-1200x720.jpg

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — The 28 kilometers that Alexander Bolshunov raced Saturday was only enough to take him just past the halfway point of the race he’d entered at the Winter Olympics. But Bolshunov, who competes for Russia, is still going home with the gold medal. That development is the result of a decision by race organizers to shorten the Olympics’ iconic 50-kilometer marathon event in the face of brutal wind and cold. But they’re now...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Kaminska08022022fm00604-1200x720.jpg

A back-of-the-pack women’s skier competing for Ukraine at the Beijing Olympics has tested positive for banned drugs, according to the agency that’s overseeing testing at the Games. Valentyna Kaminska tested positive for a banned steroid and stimulants on the day she finished 79th in the 10-kilometer classic event, the International Testing Agency said in a statement Wednesday. Kaminska has been provisionally suspended until the case is resolved and is banned from participating in further Olympic...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Screen-Shot-2022-02-15-at-6.14.55-AM.png

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHN — International Ski Federation officials say they’re exploring backup options for season-ending races in Russia amid fears of a war between that country and Ukraine, though they’re still planning on holding the event as scheduled next month unless circumstances change. The final races of the top-level World Cup are scheduled to be held in Tyumen, Russia, in an oil-rich area in Siberia — about 1,000 miles away from the border with Ukraine, where American...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Schumacher13022022fm01885-1200x720.jpg

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHN — Imagine being 21 years old. You’re in a foreign country, 4,000 miles from your family, where you can’t really socialize. Thousands of people are scrutinizing your job performance. Your job performance is not meeting their expectations, nor is it meeting yours. Reporters are asking for an explanation, and you don’t really have one. Welcome to U.S. cross-country skier Gus Schumacher’s world at the Beijing Olympics. Schumacher, who’s seen as America’s Next Great Hope...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/WhatsApp-Image-2022-02-12-at-6.36.34-PM-1-768x720.jpeg

ZHANGJIAKOU — Patrick Moore is a cheerful accountant from Edmonton, Alberta. Tim Baucom spends his summers working sales for a Vermont plank flooring company. Oleg Ragilo runs a cosmetic shop in Estonia with his wife. Jessie Diggins, the American cross-country ski star, couldn’t have won her Olympic bronze without them. Moore, Baucom and Ragilo all belong to America’s nine-member ski service team here — a mix of mostly paid staff and a couple of volunteers like Moore....

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Screen-Shot-2022-02-12-at-9.43.55-PM-1280x720.png

A clip of Jens Burman tasting Chinese snacks on his vlog racked up hundreds of thousands of views on a Chinese social media platform. The sport of cross-country skiing has not, exactly, become a sensation in China during the Winter Olympic Games.  In spite of the country’s massive investment in training cross-country skiers and biathletes, none has cracked the top 10 in Beijing, and Chinese journalists complain that athletes have dodged them after races. What...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Group05022022fm00110-1-1200x720.jpg

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — American cross-country ski coaches face a high-stakes dilemma over the next 24 hours as they choose which members of their deep, talented women’s team will race Saturday’s four-person relay at the Beijing Olympics. The U.S. women have a fair shot at a medal in the event, in which each woman skis a five-kilometer leg. But don’t envy the American coaches, who are still pondering which of six athletes will fill the last two...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Scott-P-1280x720.jpg

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — Even Scott Patterson wasn’t totally certain he was the right guy for the American Olympic team in Beijing. The veteran Alaska cross-country skier broke his wrist in August, derailing his training and throwing his participation in the Games into limbo. When he finally made it to Europe to race on the top-level World Cup circuit, he placed fourth-to-last in his first event back. “I was a little bit questioning,” said Patterson. “The last...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Bolshunov07022022fm00530-1200x720.jpg

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — Russia, and its flag, are officially barred from the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, a ruling that stems from continuing doping violations following a massive, state-sponsored scandal at the 2014 Games in Sochi that included cross-country skiers. But other Russian cross-country skiers are still competing here, under the flag of their country’s Olympic committee. And on Sunday, in their first race of the Games, Russian men took the top two places. Star Alexander...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Brennan08022022fm00806-1280x720.jpg

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — Rosie Brennan brought two left boots to her cross-country ski race at the Olympics on Tuesday. Then, she crashed. Just speed bumps on her way to history. Brennan’s fourth place in Tuesday’s sprint, in the skating technique, was overshadowed by her teammate Jessie Diggins’ bronze — only the third Olympic cross-country skiing medal in U.S. history, and the first individual medal for women. But Brennan’s result is arguably just as big of an...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/Halvorsen08022022fm00558-1280x720.jpg

Hannah Halvorsen made her appearance at the Olympics just two years after sustaining life-threatening injuries when a car hit her in an Anchorage crosswalk. Two years ago, Hannah Halvorsen sustained life-threatening injuries when a car hit her in an Anchorage crosswalk. On Tuesday, she raced at the Olympics in China. Her Games are likely over after a single three-and-a-half-minute qualifying sprint race — her qualifying time wasn’t fast enough to earn a spot in the medal...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2021/11/Diggins28112021fm01031-1200x720.jpg

Female American and Swedish cross-country skiers are pushing to race equal distances as men. But some of the sport’s star women remain unconvinced.  ZHIANGJIAKOU, CHINA — At the end of her first-ever competition at the Winter Olympics — a 15-kilometer effort that left her sprawled on the ground gasping for breath — Julia Kern contemplated the idea of racing twice as far. “I personally like the shorter distances,” said Kern, a rising American star. But,...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/02/IMG_9808-1024x720.jpg

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — After months of headlines about coronavirus tests, travel logistics and geopolitics, Beijing’s Olympic cross-country skiing venue, on the eve of its first competition Saturday, has emphatically changed the subject. To the winds of Zhangjiakou. Icy gusts billowed athletes’ training bibs, filled the resort town’s immaculately groomed ski tracks with dry, squeaky powder and generally consumed everyone’s attention Friday — from the team members who shielded their faces with buffs and layers of...

https://fasterskier.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2022/01/Hailey-Swirbul-KN95-train-1280x720.jpeg

This article originally appeared on Wednesday January 19th, 2022 in the Anchorage Daily News. Reposted with permission. The organizers of next month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing have imposed a rigorous regime of testing, quarantines and isolation for incoming athletes and staff. Among the casualties is Steve Patterson’s pickleball game. Patterson has two adult children, Scott and Caitlin, who grew up in Alaska and are both Olympic hopefuls in cross-country skiing. They’re planning to prepare for...