I know rollerskiing season just ended a couple weeks ago, but we're going to talk a little more about rollerskiing now...
A while back, we had a guy on the UAA Ski Team who went by the name of Schalli. A few years after he left UAA for other pursuits, Schalli contacted me and asked if I wanted to rollerski north to south across the USA with him or something like that. Of course it was easy for me to say no, because no matter how I fun I tried to imagine it being, there was no way rollerskiing thousands of miles seemed like it could be fun at all. But this isn't a story about Schalli and me.
Back in 1987, when I came to Alaska for the first time to compete in the junior national championships, I was having a great week. And near the end of the week I was invited by UAA's ski coach to take a look around UAA's campus. Ultimately I decided to go elsewhere for college, but I was impressed by what I saw during my tour of UAA. The moment I remember most vividly, though, is when I was being shown UAA's weight room, which at that time was inside an old raquetball court in the old athletics building. Having never seen a college weight room before, I didn't realize that a weight room inside a raquetball court was not a very big weight room. I was impressed by how many weights and machines were in there. (And the weight room was a lot bigger than what we'd had at my high school, where the weight room was inside a closet. Literally. Two people could work out in there at once. Maybe three if they were small people or couldn't lift much weight.) But what impressed me even more than the huge, racquetball-court-sized weight room was that, in the weight room, pumping iron, was Heikki Kanerva. He was a big deal on the college circuit at the time, and I knew his name well. I have to admit I was a little starstruck, meeting him there in the tiny doorway of that little weight room / raquetball court. Heikki later went on to be a bigwig with Microsoft, becoming the program manager and designer of the Microsoft Office system. So it's pretty fitting that I'm writing about Heikki using MS Office, a program he had a big part in designing.
But this isn't a story about Heikki Kanerva either. Heikki started his UAA Ski Team career in 1984, and in that first season he had a teammate named Raimonds Dombrovskis. Raimonds is from Latvia and was a UAA Seawolf for the 1984-85 season before moving on to other things. This is a story about Raimonds Dombrovskis. If you want to find out what Raimonds is doing lately, you can watch this video (and if you don't understand Latvian like me, maybe you can get Martins Onskulis to translate it for you). But if you want to know what Raimonds was doing in the years immediately following his year as a UAA Skiwolf, you're going to have to get yourself down to the Alaska Experience Theater downtown next week and watch the movie that was made about him. I don't want to tell you what happens and spoil all your fun, but I can give you a couple of hints: He was a member of the 1988 US Olympic Biathlon Team. He didn't actually get to ski in the Olympics due to a burst appendix. And he rollerskied from Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada to Mexico.
I can already see the questions popping up in your mind. How was he on the US Olympic Team when he was Latvian? How did he rollerski on those rough dirt roads? Aren't there better places to rollerski than down the Alaska Highway? Did Raimonds know that the Dempster Highway is a rough gravel road, and it's really, really long? Does it hurt when you have a burst appendix? I have the same questions you do, of course. Dita, the film's co-producer and editor, told me I could ask her any questions I want. But I haven't asked her these nagging questions which have been keeping me awake at night, because it would ruin the movie if I knew all the answers. So I think I'm just going to go downtown to the theater, lean back in one of those plush velour seats, and let the magic of film make everything clear to me.
|The Dempster Highway on a typical summer day. A nice place to rollerski?|