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Alaska Olympians Plan for Sochi Amid Security Concerns

Published On: Dec 31 2013 07:01:30 PM AKST   Updated On: Dec 31 2013 07:08:02 PM AKST

By Reporter Samantha Angaiak and Photojournalist Shawn Wilson.  (KTUU-TV)


For Alaskan athletes trying to qualify for the trip of a lifetime, concerns about their safety in Sochi, Russia during the Winter Olympics is not enough to keep them from going after their dreams.

Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, an Olympic snowboarder, spent her Christmas break in Girdwood, where she’s gone snowboarding every day. She says she's hoping to qualify for the 2014 games.

"I certainly hope nothing happens at the Olympics, but I'm pretty secure in the fact that the U.S. is prepared to deal with things, and there's foresight to prepare for whatever might happen," she said.

Chythlook-Sifsof attended the games in Vancouver in 2010, and has already had a taste of what security measures could be like in Sochi.

"Every sport has a test event in the venue of the Olympics, so we went to Sochi and had an event there and there's definitely a big security presence," Chythlook-Sifsof said.

Suicide bombers launched two deadly attacks in Volgograd, Russia in the past week. More than 30 people were killed. Volograd is located about 400 miles from Sochi.

Chythlook-Sifsof said the dangers of traveling abroad are just part of the territory when it comes to competing.

"That's just something that happens with travel and that's what happens when you cross country borders,” she said. “You can't expect every place to be safe, and you can't expect every place to be like where you come from."

Olympic curler Jessica Schultz, who will compete in Sochi, says she trusts those involved in securing the games.

In a statement to KTUU Channel 2 News, Schultz wrote: "I hope the security systems in place will be enough to keep the families and athletes safe so we can continue to focus and enjoy the games as they are. Bringing all the countries together and hopefully inspire peace during an unsettling time."

Schultz's father Marty says nothing will stop him from watching his daughter compete.

"(I'm) not afraid. I'm going unless the U.S. Embassy comes out and makes a public statement where they think there is a threat,” he said.

As athletes prepare for the trip to Russia, they remain committed to their goals.

"I think you just have to focus on what you're doing and focus on your goal of making it to the games," Chythlook-Sifsof said.

Chythlook-Sifsof has a packed schedule between now and when she finds out whether she will qualify for the Olympics. She’ll travel to Spain for the third World Cup of the season, and later to Switzerland for the fourth World Cup.

Chythlook-Sifsof's final stop before the Olympics will be at the Winter X-Games in Aspen in late January.