Update from late November 2023, since this article remains highly popular: It took Kevin Bolger far longer than anticipated, but he ultimately saw his visa processed and was able to join the team, and his girlfriend, in Europe in time for the opening World Cup races. However, if anyone has an in with the U.S. State Department, Jessie Diggins is still looking for help to get her husband over to Europe to watch her this winter, so be in touch with me or the U.S. Ski Team if you know someone there. I am not joking. Thanks.
There were four American men who contested the skate sprint at the 2022 Winter Olympics; there were four Swedish women who did the same. Because there are roughly 17 people involved with the niche sport of high-level cross-country skiing, and they spend all their time together while traveling the world to do ski races, fully half of those eight Olympic starters are now dating each other. Their relationships have brought both emotional fulfillment but, more recently, logistical frustration as well. Read on for more.
Kevin Bolger + Maja Dahlqvist
Kevin Bolger, 30, of Minocqua, Wisconsin, has been romantically linked with Maja Dahlqvist, 29, of Falun, Sweden, for some time. They were already well established as an item by the time of this memorable Covid-era profile from Nat Herz, which states that they began dating during the 2020/2021 season.
Bolger was able to spend ample time with Dahlqvist in summer 2021, a halcyon era when vaccines had been procured, the omicron variant had not yet emerged, and the ultra-strict Covid protocols of the Beijing Games were still months on the horizon.
But then omicron came, and case numbers skyrocketed, and the happy couple had to keep their distance, quite literally, while trying to get both them and their teammates to the Olympic start line virus-free. Herz’s article (which is great and deserves a read) describes a cautious courtship in which the couple maintained strict protocols throughout their time in Zhangjiakou, such as going for walks outside. Two meters apart. While wearing N95s.
The only exception was a single hug (also outside, also wearing N95s), occurring after Dahlqvist had literally won an Olympic silver medal. This joyous yet chaste photo captures the moment. Their eyes look really happy. #smizeEmbed from Getty Images
There were lots of masks in Beijing. Maja Dahlqvist is on the far left here. I think.
The Olympics ended, the virus threat ebbed, and life gradually returned somewhat more to normal for us all. Here’s the happy couple in Expressen, a Swedish tabloid, in November 2022, musing about buying a house together in Dahlqvist’s home town of Falun. Here they are later that month, with Bolger laughing about being inadvertently listed as Swedish in a Bruksvallarna season opener, reflecting his affiliation with Dahlqvist’s ski club, Falun-Borlänge.
The couple continued dating throughout last season. Bolger posted in March 2023 about skiing in Falun and wrote that it was “fun to race on ‘Home’ snow!!”; Dahlqvist jibed that he should excise the quotation marks on “home.” (This reporter was a big Dahlqvist fan already, but he is also a massive dork, so a punctuation joke sure didn’t hurt.)
Here they are in London in May, together with much of the Swedish women’s sprint team. Here they are in Falun in July, on Bolger’s home turf in Wisconsin in September, crushing intervals together at Soldier Hollow a few weeks ago. If you’ll pardon the earnest sentiment for a moment, the two of them look really happy together, and I wish them all the best. It’s a good life.
But then — *record scratch* — comes this headline in Expressen late last month: “Love is stopped – Maja Dahlqvist appeals for help.” The article states that Bolger had previously used up all 90 days of European travel permitted to him under a previous visa, and was having difficulty procuring a new one.
“And if he doesn’t get a new visa, he won’t be able to go to the national premiere in Gällivare or the World Cup premiere in Ruka,” Dahlqvist told the Swedish paper, according to an auto-translation.
The Wisconsite remained sanguine about the situation when I recently followed up on this.
“At this point I am waiting to hear back on a visa and I’m hoping to hear sooner than later,” Bolger wrote to Nordic Insights yesterday. “Unfortunately that’s all I have at the moment; it’s just a waiting game.”
Bolger was asked if he anticipated being able to compete on the World Cup this season, in light of his current visa woes.
“Yes 100% I will be racing the World Cup,” he wrote. “I’m just hoping I’m able to get over to Europe sooner than later, to best prepare for the season, and I know Matt and Grover [U.S. Ski Team coaches Matt Whitcomb and Chris Grover] are doing everything they can to help make that happen.”
For the time being, Bolger remains in Park City for fall training, even while Team Birkie is now without — and I say this with all respect and admiration for Bolger and Zak Ketterson — its unofficial and best-credentialed member in Dahlqvist. For the time being, Dahlqvist has returned to Sweden, where she was recently out training with Anna Dyvik, per her Instagram stories.
Dyvik also started that Olympic sprint in Zhangjiakou; she finished 17th overall on the day. As far as I am currently aware, neither Dyvik nor the day’s other Swedish sprinter, Jonna Sundling, is dating either Ben Ogden or Luke Jager, the two other American men who raced there.
JC Schoonmaker + Emma Ribom
JC Schoonmaker, 23, of Truckee, California, fifteenth in the Beijing Olympic sprint, has been romantically linked with Emma Ribom, 25, of Kalix, Sweden, sixth in the Olympic sprint, since at least during the latter parts of the 2022/2023 season. It was an open secret by the time Ribom visited Schoonmaker in Anchorage this April, where she was spotted spring skiing with Schoonmaker’s college team at the University of Alaska Anchorage, camping outside of Hope, Alaska, and otherwise experiencing the magic that is springtime on snow in Alaska.
I didn’t previously publish this intel, even as a blind item, because it felt like unfairly prying into their personal life; you can decide for yourself whether that makes me a decent person or a total chump of a reporter, maybe both. But now that this dating relationship has made, yes, Expressen (“Emma Ribom’s new love: The star from the USA”), I am noting it here.
Expressen used a blurry Instagram story screenshot to portray the happy couple. My version of same is above. Quality stuff all around here.
Ribom was previously linked to Swedish skier Marcus Grate; that relationship ended in fall 2022. Schoonmaker’s last relationship was not publicly reported, since the American version of Expressen is probably like JohnnyKlister, and that hasn’t been active for a long time now.
— Gavin Kentch