At least eight current or past University of Denver athletes have been named to national teams participating in the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, scheduled to begin in February. Two DU athletes are slated to represent Team USA – current DU ski team member Katie Hensien and DU hockey alumnus Nick Shore. Additionally, DU hockey alumnus Juho Olkinoura and cross-country ski alumna Jasmi Joensuu will represent Team Finland; three DU skiing alumni have been named to the Canadian ski team (Amelia Smart, Trevor Philp and Erik Read); and skiing alumna Andrea Komšić will ski for Croatia. This group of eight athletes is the largest contingent of Pioneers to go the same Olympic Games since 10 Pioneers participated in the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan.
This story (Part I) outlines the careers of the first four athletes (Hensien, Shore, Olkinoura and Joensuu) while Part II will follow soon and will highlight DU’s Canadian ski contingent of three athletes and Komšić.
Current DU Senior Alpine Skier Katie Hensien (Park City, Utah) has been selected for the 2022 United States Olympic Ski Team, one of only 11 women picked to compete for Team USA due to Covid-restricted team sizes in Beijing. She is the first current DU student-athlete to compete for the United States in alpine skiing since Eric Paulsen competed at the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan. Hensien is also to be the first DU female alpine skier to ski for the USA in the Olympics since DU’s Catherine “Katy” Louise Rodolph and Gladys Werner competed in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy in the 1956 Olympic Winter Games.
A true multitasker, Hensien has juggled competing for both the U.S. National team and for DU in recent years, and is also pursuing a computer science and business degree with a minor in innovation and entrepreneurship as a full-time student.
Hensien, who has been a member of the US Ski Team for the last five years, has accordingly seen only limited action for the Pioneers, having never skied for DU at the NCAA Championships during her four years as a Denver student. However, she comes into Beijing hot, winning back-to-back giant slaloms last Sunday at the RMISA Invitational and Monday at the Utah Invitational. The 22-year-old also placed second in last Thursday’s slalom race at the RMISA Invite, and she came in fifth in the GS at last Tuesday’s Montana State Invitational.
“This has always been a childhood dream of mine and getting the call that I’m representing the United States at the Olympics is just surreal,” said Hensien in a DU press release on Jan. 25. “I’m really excited to represent the country and perform the best that I can on the biggest stage in the world. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m very excited.”
“The entire team is so proud of Katie, as being picked for an Olympic alpine team is an accomplishment many strive for but few achieve,” said Denver Alpine Head Coach Joonas Rasanen.
Hansien was born in Redmond, Wash., but moved to Park City, Utah with her family in 2015. She has raced in 17 events for the Pioneers in her four years at DU, and was second team all-RMISA in 2020. She did not race for DU in 2021, racing for Team USA instead.
For the US Ski Team, she has three recent top-30 finishes in World Cup slalom events — 28th in Slovakia and 18th in Croatia in 2022, and 27th in Austria in 2021 — as well as a silver medal team finish at the World Junior Championships in 2019 in Val de Fassa, Italy. Hensien also finished third in the 2021 US Championships in slalom in Aspen, and won the 2020 US Championship in giant slalom at Copper Mountain that year, where she also finished third in slalom.
There are also two DU hockey alumni slated to compete in Beijing:
Nick Shore, a Denver native who played three seasons as a center at DU from 2010 to 2013, was selected by Team USA as a forward. While current NHL players are prohibited from playing in the Beijing Olympic Games due to Covid-19 restrictions, Team USA will roster its 25 best players who are not under current NHL contracts, plus six taxi squad alternate players in case of injuries or Covid issues in Beijing.
Shore, 29, who played 299 NHL games and earned about $7 million in the NHL after his DU career ended, currently leads Sibir Novosibirsk (of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League) in scoring with 26 points in 49 games as of Jan. 23, 2022. His former NHL teams (2013-2020) include the Los Angeles Kings, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets.
The well-traveled 6-1, 220-pound Shore has also played international hockey in the Russian, Slovak and Swiss Leagues, as well as minor league hockey here in North America in the AHL. His non-NHL pro highlights include an AHL All-Star appearance and a Calder Cup Championship in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs in 2014-15, and a Swiss League Championship Cup with EV Zug in 2021.
Nick is also no stranger to the Team USA jersey. As a teenager, Nick played 132 games for the US National U-18 and US U-17 teams from 2008-2010 before arriving at DU, including the World U-17 and World U-18 Championships, where he was a gold medalist at the U-18 level in 2010, leading the team in assists with 38 that season.
Shore finished his three-year DU career in 2013 with 93 points (34g, 59a) in 115 games, and tallied a team-leading 34 points on 14 goals and 20 assists during his junior campaign — his last as a Pioneer. He left DU before his senior season when he was offered an NHL contract by the Los Angeles Kings, who had drafted him in the third-round of the NHL Draft in 2011.
He was also a two-time WCHA all-academic selection and played in three NCAA tournaments for the Pioneers in each of his three seasons in Denver.
Nick played his key youth hockey years in Denver with the Colorado Thunderbirds AAA program. Shore is also the second of three Shore brothers to play for the Pioneers — older brother Drew Shore played for DU from 2009-2012, before turning professional after his junior season at DU, and younger brother Quentin played for Denver from 2012-2016, before turning professional after his senior season. Both Drew and Quentin are now retired as hockey players, while a fourth Shore brother, Baker, is a currently senior forward at Harvard University. All four Shore brothers were members of various USA Hockey teams at different points, but Nick looks to be the only one, so far, slated to play in the Olympic Games.
Former DU Ice Hockey goalie Juho “Jussi” Olkinoura, 31, who played as a DU teammate with Nick Shore for his two Pioneer seasons from 2011-2013, will join the Finnish Olympic Hockey Team for Beijing.
A Helsinki, Finland native currently playing professionally for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, Olkinoura has racked up a 20-12-2 record with a 2.45 GAA and a .917 saves percentage so far this season (as of Jan. 23). Olkinoura is also an international hockey veteran, leading Finland to the Silver Medal at the 2021 IIHF World Championships in Latvia, where was voted to the tournament all-Star team, as well as helping Finland to the Gold medal at the 2019 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia, where he saw spot duty as a backup netminder.
Olkinoura played his two seasons at DU from 2011-13, going 13-6-5 with a 2.35 GAA and a .927 save percentage in 24 games in his final (sophomore) season. He recorded three shutouts, was named to the Second Team All-WCHA team and was voted a second team all-American. While Olkinoura was undrafted, his great DU sophomore season earned him an NHL contract offer from the Winnipeg Jets. He signed the contract, turning professional and forgoing his junior and senior years at DU.
While he hasn’t made it to the NHL (as yet), Olkinoura did play three full seasons in North American minor leagues in the AHL and ECHL after DU, followed by a return to Europe in 2016, where he has played in the top Finnish and Russian leagues ever since. He won a European Champions League title with JYP Jyväskylä (Finland) in 2018.
Before DU, Okinoura played junior hockey for the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Stampede of the U.S. Hockey League in 2010-11. DU associate head coach Steve Miller (now at Ohio State) and former DU goaltending coach Derek Lalonde (now an NHL assistant with Tampa) recruited Olkinuora to be a backup goalie at DU after starter Sam Brittain required major knee surgery in June of 2011. According to the Denver Post, Olkinuora was headed back to Helsinki before choosing to sign up for a $45,000 student loan and the temporary backup job at DU, which he soon parlayed into a full scholarship when he shared the No. 1 job at DU with Brittain in 2013.
Olkinoura will be the second Finnish Denver Pioneer to play hockey in the Olympic Games. The first was Antti Laaksonen (DU 1993-1997), who won silver for the Finns at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy.
Another Pioneer alumna will be suiting up for Team Finland as a Nordic (cross-country) skier, Jasmi Joensuu (Kuortane, Finland/DU 2015-2019), a three-time all-American who skied for four seasons as a Denver Pioneer. Joensuu recorded two of her all-American finishes at the NCAA Championships in 2019, taking second in the 5K freestyle and eighth in the 15K freestyle. She also placed seventh in the freestyle at the 2018 NCAA Championships, earning second team all-American status. She helped the Pioneers to NCAA team Championships in 2016 and 2018.
“I think going to Denver was the best decision I made,” Joensuu told Daily Skier last July. “It is hard to say where I would be without those years in Denver.…My plan was originally to be there only for a year, but…I found myself coming back to Denver year after year.”
Joensuu, 25, turned professional after her DU career, and comes into Beijing as the reigning Finnish National Champion in the 10K Classical event. She won the title at the Finnish Championships in Imatra, Finland on Jan. 8., 2022, her first podium-topping finish as a pro. She also won a bronze medal at the 2021 World Ski Championships in Obersdorf, Germany as part of the Finnish 4x5km relay team.
Stay tuned for Part II of this story coming soon, where we will profile the three Pioneer skiers who were selected to compete for Canada in Beijing, as well as Andrea Komšić, a Croatian skier.