(Kevin Bickner, Photo Credit – FIS Marketing)
Kevin Bickner tied his best result ever on Sunday morning when he finished in seventh place at the Ski Jumping Summer Grand Prix in Hakuba, Japan. The result came nearly a year to the day after Bickner had his first ever top ten finish, seventh at the Grand Prix in Hakuba last year.
“I feel like I put together two solid jumps,” Bickner said when asked how he felt about Sunday. “Not as exciting as last year, but more consistent.” Bickner had the longest jump in training and knew his potential going into the competition. Although he didn’t win, Bickner was pleased with his results, as he has been for most of the summer and said he was “looking forward to the next Grand Prix.”
The event was won by Junshiro Kobayashi, of Japan who edged out teammate Ryoyu Kobayashi. Anze Lanisek of Slovenia claimed third. Bickner was joined in the top 30 by Michael Glasder who earned himself his first top 30 since February.
Bickner led the team both days, finishing 23rd on Saturday ahead of Glasder and Casey Larson as well as Canadians Joshua Maurer and Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes. Kobayashi was also the winner on Saturday. Second place went to Kenneth Gangnes of Norway and third place was claimed by Klemens Muranka of Poland.
“We are still in the middle of our preparation for winter,” said an enthusiastic coach Uros “Balki” Vhrovec when asked how he felt about the overall performance of the team. He said the athletes have been “fighting” in every competition, but admitted there is still “room for improvements.” Balki also congratulated Kevin on his top ten result, noting the improvements that the team has made.
Halfway around the globe, the men’s Nordic Combined team wrapped up a stretch of competitions with back to back events in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Taylor Fletcher put in another great race on Friday and led the team in 25th place at the Summer Grand Prix in Oberstdorf. Brother, Bryan Fletcher, who skied together with Taylor for most of the race, crossed the line a few seconds later in 28th place. Ben Berend finished in 40th place and Jasper Good was 45th.
The day was won by Eric Frenzel of Germany. Second place was claimed by fellow German Johannes Rydzek, while Mario Seidl of Austria took third.
Saturday, which was the last Nordic Combined Summer Grand Prix for a month, was a little more difficult for the US team. Both Taylor Fletcher and Ben Berend were disqualified after the jumping. Neither were happy about the decision but both acknowledged the need to move on with Fletcher calling the day disappointing but the trip an “overall success.” Bryan Fletcher decided to rest some tendonitis he’s been battling rather than risk an injury down the road. But there was one skier who did finish on Saturday.
Adam Loomis tied his second best result with a 28th place on Saturday. Loomis, who has been waiting for his chance to compete took advantage of his opportunity and picked up a few Summer Grand Prix cup points as well when he turned in 14th fastest time. It was a bright note on a long day.
Saturday’s event was won by Mario Seidl. It was his second win of the Summer Grand Prix series. German skier Fabian Riessle edged out teammate Eric Frenzel in a final sprint. Both had wins earlier in the week.
(Nordic Combined SGP Oberstdorf, Photo Credit – Romina Eggert)
For now the Nordic Combined team will be resting and recovering before the next Summer Grand Prix in Planica, Slovenia in a month. Meanwhile, Bickner and the rest of the team will return to Europe to train for the next Ski Jumping Summer Grand Prix in Chaikovsky, Russia where the men will be joined by the Ladies’ Ski Jumping Summer Grand Prix.