Conway's Sean Doherty achieved the rank of Olympian with remarkable speed. And then he had to wait until the next-to-last day of the Sochi Winter Games to make his debut.
The youngest athlete ever selected for a U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team, Doherty, 18, competed as a member of the men's 4x-7.5-kilometer relay squad last Saturday and had the quartet's second-best time, 19 minutes 37.3 seconds. Of the four Americans, only 32-year-old Lowell Bailey (17:20.7) was faster.
Although the U.S. placed 16th of 19 teams in the ski-and-shoot event, Doherty was at least moderately pleased with his Olympic debut.
"I think it was pretty good," he said in a team release. "I took too many (shots) in prone, but it was a good race. It was high-pace right from the get-go, and I think I held it together pretty well.
"It was fun," he added. "I tried to keep a level head with all the emotions and excitement running high here with my first Olympic start. It's real exciting."
A senior at Conway's Kennett High School, Doherty doesn't have much time to focus on his studies after his return from Russia. He'll be competing this weekend at Presque Isle, Maine, in the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships, the same meet in which he earned three podiums — and New Hampshire Union Leader Athlete of the Month honors — at Obertilliach, Austria, last year.
It was at Obertilliach that he first gained widespread notice as a potential Olympian, with two gold medals and a silver — the first American biathlete ever to win three medals at a world championship.
Doherty wasn't the only young Granite Stater getting invaluable Olympic experience under his belt during the past three weeks. Ski jumpers Nick Alexander, 25, of Lebanon, and Nick Fairall, 24, of Andover were the top Americans in their individual events, Alexander placing 35th in the qualifying round of the men's normal-hill competition and Fairall matching that finish in the large-hill jump. They also were the top two Americans in the four-man team competition on the large hill.
In snowboarding, Laconia's Chas Guldemond reached the semifinals of the slopestyle in his Olympic debut, narrowly missing a berth in the final.
A large Dartmouth College contingent produced a range of results, highlighted by graduate Andrew Weibrecht's silver-medal performance in the men's Alpine super-G, the same event in which Franconia native Bode Miller earned bronze.
Current Dartmouth student Nolan Kasper finished a respectable 13th in the men's slalm, but another Dartmouth graduate, David Chodounsky, didn't fair so well in the same event, suffering disqualification when he caught a tip during the first run.
Kasper's Big Green skiing teammate Warren Cummings Smith wasn't his teammate in Russia, competing instead for Estonia and finishing 26th in the slalom, 45th in the giant slalom.
And while two former University of New Hampshire players, coach Katey Stone and defensemen Kacey Bellamy, were working their way toward a silver medal for the U.S., another player with New Hampshire ties was skating as the oldest member of the home team. Yekaterina Pashkevich, a 41-year-old Massachusetts resident who spent several seasons with the now-defunct Manchester Freedom women's football team, helped the Russians go 4-2, though they didn't reach the medal round.
But of all the Granite Staters representing the U.S., Campton resident Bill Enos may have had the most satisfying Olympic experience. A veteran of the Waterville Valley Black and Blue Trail Smashers program, Enos served as slopestyle coach for the U.S. Freeskiing Team, and helped Jamie Anderson and Sage Kotsenburg earn gold in the event's Olympic debut.