After more than two years on the sidelines battling Lyme Disease, a Bellingham skier may be the frontrunner to represent the United States in a new Winter Olympics event next year.
Angeli Vanlaanen was the top U.S. finisher last weekend in the Women’s Halfpipe at the World Ski Championships in Norway. Vanlaanen finished 6th overall.
The snowboarding halfpipe has been around for the last two Olympics, but the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia will be the first to feature halfpipe skiing.
According to her website, Vanlaanen was born and raised in Bellingham and spent a lot of her time skiing at Mount Baker. The 24-year-old also was involved in ballet, figure skating and soccer growing up.
After finishing high school, she dove full time in to professional freeskiing in 2005. It paid off, with top five finishes in multiple events between 2005 and 2009, and appearances in the superpipe finals at the X-Games in 2007 – 2009.
Through all these accomplishments, something was wrong with Vanlaanen.
“From bouts of fatigue to unexplained ailments such as dizziness and body pain, something wasn't right,” her website reads.
Finally In 2009, Vanlaanen discovered she had been living with Lyme Disease since she was 10, but that it had been repeatedly misdiagnosed.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics, but Vanlaanen had been living with it for over a decade before doctors finally figured it out.
In a blog post on her website dated Sept. 24 of last year, Vanlaanen wrote that she was beginning her freeskiing comeback after 2 ½ years of intensive treatment.
Last weekend’s finish in Norway is a big step in that comeback, and may add Vanlaanen to the growing list of athletes to represent Washington state at the Olympics.