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How Anchorage fell in love with Olympian Holly Brooks

Olympic cross-county skier Holly Brooks became an honorary hometown girl in Anchorage, Alaska, after coaching local skiers and sweeping them up in her improbable push to make the US 2010 team.

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Holly Brooks isn’t a favorite in today’s Olympic cross-country 15 km pursuit race. But back home in Anchorage, she sure is.

That’s no small feat for a Seattle native in Alaska, where locals refer to the rest of the United States as “Outside.” But Brooks did the near impossible: became a hometown girl. A coach of more than 100 local cross-country skiers, from young teens to professionals, she swept them up in her improbable push to make the 2010 US Olympic team.

While every Olympian stands on the shoulders of scores of people – from parents to second-grade friends to elite coaches – Brooks’ story is particularly poignant.

Never a contender in her earlier years, the 27-year-old had burst onto the US skiing scene this year with performances so dominating that people were already buying their tickets for the Olympics. But on a cold day last month, Brooks cracked under the pressure, finishing seventh at one of the last selection races – endangering her bid for one of the five spots on the team.

“All these people that I coached, all my friends, everyone was there,” recalls Brooks, who was devastated. “They all think I’m going [to the Olympics], and then I go and have this horrible performance in front of my hometown crowd.”

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