Friday Flashback: Kemppel skied to 18 U.S. titles, 4 Olympics

October 16, 2020

Nina Kemppel

Anchorage’s Nina Kemppel was a true trailblazer in every sense of the word, changing the landscape for American cross-country skiing in the 1990s and 2000s.

Back in the day the United States racers rarely cracked the top 30 of World Cup races. But Kemppel changed that when she became the first woman in years to reach the top 20, and then improved on that by breaking into the top 15.

At the 2002 Olympics, in her twilight, she skied to 15th place in the 30K classical race, which was the best Olympic finish in 20 years by an American woman.

Her international ski career spanned 13 years and was highlighted by appearances at four Olympics and six World Championships between 1991 and 2002.

Kemppel, of West High fame, made 119 World Cup starts and won a record 18 U.S. national championships.

At the 1991 World Championships, she led the Team USA 4x5K relay to an eighth-place finish. At the 1994 Olympics, she was part of a relay team that finished 10th.

In 2001, she turned in two individual top-25 finishes at the World Championships for the first and only time.

An accomplished climber, Kemppel scaled Mount McKinley in 1995 with her father. She also won Mount Marathon in Seward nine times, including a record eight straight from 1996 to 2003.

Friday Flashback is a series created by Alaska Sports Hall of Fame blog editor Van Williams that looks back on great Alaska athletes from the past. To read about other Alaskans featured in this series, click here.