BEIJING, China – 2018 Bowdoin graduate Jake Adicoff retired from competitive Nordic skiing four years ago, satisfied with what he’d accomplished in the sport that he had taken up as a second grader.
After racing in his second Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Adicoff was the owner of a somewhat surprising silver medal. He’d soon be the owner of a degree in math and computer science from Bowdoin. It was time.
“I left PyeongChang thinking I’d just skied my last really competitive ski race,” said Adicoff, who competes in the visually impaired classification. “I thought I was done.”
Retirement didn’t last.
Around this time last year, Adicoff began training again at his Sun Valley, Idaho, home, and on Monday, he and guide Sam Wood (a 2019 Middlebury grad) raced to another Paralympic silver medal, this time in the 20-kilometer classic at the Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Centre in the mountains northwest of Beijing.
With family and friends watching along from Ketchum, Idaho, Adicoff finished 3 minutes 17.7 seconds shy of Canada’s Brian McKeever, who claimed his 14th Paralympic gold medal and 18th overall in a time of 55:36.7. Sweden’s Zebastian Modin was third, a little over a minute behind Adicoff.
“We’re really happy to be on the podium today,” Adicoff, 26, said. “It was a really hard race and we had to work pretty hard for this one.”
Adicoff’s medal was the second for Team USA in cross-country skiing at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
As recently as last year, the idea of even competing in Beijing was far from Adicoff’s mind. However, after finding himself back on his skis throughout the pandemic, he earned an invite to a national team camp in February 2021.
Even then, he wasn’t sure if he’d make an official comeback.
“I didn’t want to go to Beijing for the ride,” he said.
He’d only commit if he was confident he could be good enough to win a medal. On Monday he did just that, and in arguably his weakest event.
After making his Paralympic debut in 2014, Adicoff came back in 2018, winning a silver medal in the 10-kilometer classic race.
That middle-distance race again proved to be his best event at the world championships two months ago in Lillehammer, Norway, with Adicoff winning to claim his first world title. He also won a silver medal in the sprint and a bronze in the distance race.
He’ll have opportunities for more Paralympic medals this week, with the sprint on Wednesday and the middle-distance race on Saturday.
“I’m happy to be on the medal stand today,” he said, “and we’ll do everything we can to get the gold medal next.”
Several athletes have noted the difficulty of the Zhangjiakou course, with Adicoff noting “this is the weirdest snow I’ve ever skied on.” That didn’t slow him too much in Monday’s long-distance race. Adicoff was nothing if not consistent, clocking in at second place in all 15 checkpoints.
“It was kind of tough out there,” he said. “We worked pretty hard to ski not as fast as we wanted to, but it was still fun.”