US Olympian Returns From Sochi and Turns to Politics

(Sergei Grits/AP Photo)

Now that he's no longer tearing up the slopes in Sochi, U.S. Olympic snowboarder Ryan Stassel has turned his attention to another high-stakes race: the 2014 Senate contest in his own snowy state.

The Alaska native formally endorsed Senate candidate and current Alaskan Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, a Republican, at his campaign headquarters on Thursday.

Stassel, 21, said he worked as a fisherman to support his Olympic ambitions and wants better for the state that helped him achieve his dream.

"I know [Treadwell] will fight to improve the state that allowed me to achieve my dreams. As an Alaskan, I know that Mead is a fellow Alaskan that truly encompasses the Alaskan spirit," Stassel said in a statement released by the Treadwell campaign.

Stassel, who was less than two points away from qualifying for the men's slopestyle finals, reportedly began his snowboarding career at Alaska's Hilltop Ski Area facilities while in kindergarten.

"To become an Olympian takes dedication and the ability to keep fighting when you want to stop," Stassel said. "I see those qualities in Mead Treadwell."

Treadwell tweeted his enthusiasm for Stassel's support before his event Thursday evening.

Treadwell, one of three Republicans vying for the Senate seat currently occupied by Democrat Sen. Mark Begich, is facing a competitive primary. But he insists he's a more "credible Republican candidate" than his GOP challengers, former Alaska Attorney General Daniel Sullivan and tea party favorite Joe Miller.

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