Ford is among the Oregonians headed to Beijing next month to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics. While it's a smaller haul of locals than the most recent Summer Olympics, Team USA also includes Portland-born skier Jacqueline Wiles, slalom racer Luke Winters, who grew up in Gresham, and Sean FitzSimons, a snowboarder from Hood River.
At the age of 7, Ford followed in his father, mother, and brother’s (ski) tracks and began racing at Mount Bachelor. Now 32, he joined the US Alpine Ski Team in 2009 and has since won nine national championships. Although already a two-time Olympian, Ford’s appearance in this year’s games is a bit surprising.
After finishing the 2020 season ranked fifth in the world in giant slalom (and no. 1 in the US), Ford was an initial favorite to win a medal in this year’s games. However, last January, Ford crashed while competing for the World Cup in Switzerland and had to be airlifted from the mountain, resulting in a devastating knee injury and a concussion, followed by four surgeries. Ford spent most of last year at home in Bend recovering—both physically and mentally—ever since. He only returned to the slopes this past November, and has not raced a World Cup since the crash.
Joining Ford in the three-time Olympian club is Portland-born Jacqueline Wiles. The 29-year-old has been on the US Alpine Ski Team for 10 years, and has racked up two downhill third-place wins for the Women’s World Cup Team. Known for her speed and fearlessness on the slopes, Wiles has been skiing since she was 2 years old, and racing since she was 5. She spent weekends in her childhood chasing her brother down Mount Hood, after their parents enrolled them in the race program as a “kind of daycare.”
In 2018, a week before Wiles was set to compete in her second Olympic games, she fell during a World Cup race in Germany, severely injuring her leg and taking her out of the games. She was in recovery for 17 months before sustaining yet another knee injury in February 2021. However, Wiles was back to being a threat in competitive downhill racing just a few months later.
Competing alongside Wiles and Ford for the US Olympic Alpine team is Luke Winters, who was born and raised in Gresham. This will mark the 24-year-old slalom specialist's first Olympic games. Winters has been a member of the US Alpine team since 2019, and became a slalom and alpine combined national champion that same year. Winters grew up skiing for Mount Hood Race Academy with his twin brother, and attended Sugar Bowl Academy, a high school near Lake Tahoe for competitive skiers. He is currently ranked 24th in the world cup slalom rankings, thanks to a 10th place finish at the Adelboen World Cup slalom in Switzerland earlier this month, his best race of the season so far.
Another Oregonian making their Olympic debut in Beijing this year is Hood River resident Sean FitzSimons, who was practically raised on Mount Hood. You could find him skiing around on the mountain with a binky in his mouth at 18 months old, FitzSimons told KATU. He eventually joined Mount Bachelor’s snowboard team, and has since been competing professionally in events like slopestyle, big air, and halfpipe. FitzSimons joined Team USA in 2019, and secured his spot on the Olympic Snowboard Pro Slopestyle team on January 15, after winning slopestyle at the Laax Open in Switzerland.