After what always seems like an eternity, World Cup season is finally here! In order to make sure that all of you, our fans, are ready, we wanted to provide a brief introduction to each of our USA Nordic athletes. Every single one of these athletes have spent the past seven months (and many years) preparing themselves to be the best competitors they can be. All of those hot summer days spent hiking up ski jumps, hours in the gym, or the hundreds upon hundreds of miles logged on bikes, roller skis, and running trails will finally pay off as our athletes kick off their respective seasons.
Every year, USA Nordic Sport is proud to provide training and support to a greater number of athletes than the year before. This year USA Nordic is excited to be represented by nineteen awesome young men and women on our national team. And so, before they scatter to all parts of the Northern Hemisphere for the year, we invite you to meet the team:
(Click each athlete to see their full bio)
Grant Andrews, 19, Steamboat Springs, CO,
- Nordic Combined
- Best Result: 27th, Continental Cup (COC), Nizhny Tagil, Russia 2017
- Season Goal: Place Top 10 in a COC
- Fun Fact: Grant loves smoothies and has one almost every day.
Ben Berend, 22, Steamboat Springs, CO
- Nordic Combined
- Best Result: 6th, COC, Park City, UT 2015
- Season Goal: Represent the USA at the Winter Olympic Games
- Fun Fact: “I enjoy backcountry skiing, yet am truly defined by my passion for backcountry sledding. Also I dabble with poetry while on the road for skiing.”
Kevin Bickner, 21, Wauconda, IL,
- Ski Jumping
- Best Result: 15th, Ski Flying World Championships, Vikersund, Norway 2017
- Season Goal: Place top 10 in a World Cup (WC), finish the season in one of the top 30 places on the World Ranking List (WRL)
- Fun Fact: Kevin holds the North American Distance Record at 244.5 METERS! The fact is that was the most fun Kevin has ever had.
AJ Brown, 22, Fox River Grove, IL
- Ski Jumping
- Best Result: 28th, COC, Titisee-Neustadt, Germany 2017
- Season Goal: Compete in the Olympic Games
- Fun Fact: AJ loves baking, but he makes sure to keep it healthy, preferring oatmeal muffins to chocolate cake.
Nita Englund, 25, Florence, WI
- Ski Jumping
- Best Result: 2nd, WC, Rasnov, Russia 2015
- Most Excited For: “Being on the road competing this winter.”
- Fun Fact: Nita has a twin sister that currently lives and works in South Korea!
Bryan Fletcher, 31, Steamboat Springs, CO
- Nordic Combined
- Best Result: 1st, WC, Oslo, Norway “Kings Cup” 2012
- Season Goal: Win an Olympic Medal
- Fun Fact: Bryan and his wife Nikki are parents to a beautiful one year old, Ellery. Bryan is also a cancer survivor.
Taylor Fletcher, 27, Steamboat Springs, CO
- Nordic Combined
- Best Result: 3rd, WC, Sapporo, Japan 2015
- Season Goal: Improvement throughout the season
- Fun Fact: According to Taylor, he is “probably the best sleeper you will ever meet!” According to everyone else, Taylor is one of the fastest guys you will ever meet.
Tara Geraghty-Moats, 24, Fairlee, VT
- Ski Jumping
- Best Result: 9th, WC, Roznov, Romania 2015
- Season Goal: Qualify for the Olympic Ski Jumping team; win a women’s Nordic Combined COC
- Fun Fact: Tara loves green tea lattes and playing her violin, but has a bit of a wild side and has ridden her mountain bike down more than one set of stairs. Offseason, of course.
Michael Glasder, 28, Cary, IL
- Ski Jumping
- Best Result: 1st, COC, Iron Mountain, MI 2016
- Most Excited For: “To shock the world with our team!”
- Fun Fact: Mike recently acquired his MBA with a concentration in project management.
Jasper Good, 21, Steamboat Springs, CO
- Nordic Combined
- Best Result: 9th, COC, Kuusamo, Finland 2017
- Season Goal: Compete in the Olympics; place in the top 30 in a WC
- Fun Fact: Jasper loves anything that gets him outdoors. In the summer, he loves to mountain bike. In the winter, when he’s not on the road competing, you can find Jasper on a pair of telemark skis in the backcountry. Jasper can even ride a unicycle!
Sarah Hendrickson, 23, Park City, UT
- Ski Jumping
- Best Result: 2013 World Champion, Val di Fiemme, Italy
- Season Goal: Qualify for Olympic Team by winning Olympic Trials
- Fun Fact: Sarah is “terrified” of fire alarms. Ironically, Sarah says fire alarms have a tendency to welcome her home, seemingly going off every time she comes home from a trip.
Casey Larson, 18, Barrington, IL
- Ski Jumping
- Best Result: 8th, Junior World Championships (JWC), Park City, UT 2017
- Most Excited For: “Excited to see all of the positive training from this summer and fall begin to payoff on snow.”
- Fun Fact: Casey has an offseason job repairing dog blow dryers.
Adam Loomis, 25, Eau Claire, WI
- Nordic Combined
- Best Result: 21st, WC, Chaux-Neuve, France 2015
- Season Goal: Qualify for the Olympic Team; finish the season in the top 50 places on the WRL
- Fun Fact: Adam just completed his BS in Business Administration from Devry University in October.
Ben Loomis, 19, Eau Claire, WI
- Nordic Combined
- Best Result: 2nd, Youth Olympic Games, Lillehammer, Norway 2016
- Most Excited For: Ben is looking forward to WJC in Kandersteg, SUI as it’s his last year of eligibility; he is aiming for a high result this year
- Fun Fact: Ben’s family has a cabin in Ontario, Canada. He calls it his “favorite place in the world” and enjoys visiting the cabin to “relax and escape from normal life.”
Nina Lussi, 23, Lake Placid, NY
- Ski Jumping
- Best Result: 1st, COC, Falun, Sweden 2014
- Season Goal: Nina has always “dreamed of representing the USA at the Olympics and will do everything that she can to make that a reality.”
- Fun Fact: Nina says she “loves kiteboarding and soft serve ice cream, in that order!”
Nick Mattoon, 22, Eau Claire, WI
- Ski Jumping
- Best Result: 16th, COC, Erzurum-Kiremitliktepe, Turkey 2017
- Most Excited For: “I am excited for Olympic Trials and the opportunity to compete for the USA.”
- Fun Fact: Nick is an avid sports fan and he loves to read in his free time. His favorite team is the Green Bay Packers, and he is currently reading “Soul of the World.”
Abby Ringquist, 28, Park City, UT
- Ski Jumping
- Best Result: 9th, WC, Sochi, Russia, 2012
- Most Excited For: Competing at US Olympic Trials in her hometown
- Fun Fact: Abby loves to back country ski, especially in her backyard with husband Jake and their family of animals (three dogs, two goats so far).
Will Rhoads, 22, Park City, UT
- Best Result: 2nd, COC, Sapporo, Japan 2015
- Most Excited For: Excited to have a chance to compete in the Olympics
- Fun Fact: In addition to being a world class Ski Jumper, Will is also quite the basketball player. He even claims to have once had a triple double in a pickup game of basketball.
Stephen Schumann, 17, Park City, UT
- Nordic Combined
- Best Result: 10th, JWC, Park City, UT 2017
- Season Goal: Podium at JWC; qualify for Olympic Team
- Fun Fact: Stephen would like everyone to know that his nickname is Skunk.
At the moment all of our athletes are busy with their final preparations for the season. Some are getting one more night’s sleep before they begin the season, others are taking advantage of winter conditions in Europe, and a few still will begin the season at home. Here is a brief picture of where our athletes will start the season:
Kevin, Michael, and Will will begin the season in Kuusamo, Finland, on the Men’s Ski Jumping World Cup. HS142 Qualification Nov 24, HS142 Team event Nov 25, HS142 Individual event Nov 26.
Ben B, Bryan, and Taylor will begin the season in Kuusamo, Finland on the Nordic Combined World Cup with a “triple” competition weekend. Jasper will be joining the team in LIllehammer, Norway, and Adam will be joining the team in Ramsau, Austria. HS142/5.0 Km Individual event Nov 24, HS142/10.0 Km Individual event Nov 25, HS142/10.0 Km Individual event Nov 26.
Abby, Nina, Nita, Sarah, and Tara will begin the season with a snow camp in Falun, Sweden, Nov 23 through Nov 28, before heading to Lillehammer, Norway, for the opening weekend of the Ladies’ Ski Jumping World Cup. HS98 Qualification Nov 30, HS98 Individual event Dec 1, HS98 Individual event Dec 2, HS138 Individual event Dec 3 (top 30 from previous two events).
AJ, Casey, and Nick, joined by a handful of junior skiers, will travel north to Whistler, Canada, for a weekend of Ski Jumping Continental Cups and FIS Cups. HS104 Individual event Dec 9, HS104 Individual event Dec 10.
Ben L, Grant, and Stephen will begin their season in Steamboat Springs, CO, competing in the opening weekend for the Nordic Combined Continental Cup “triple.” HS75/10.0 Km Individual event Dec 15, HS75/10.0 Km Individual event Dec 16, HS75/10.0 Km Individual event Dec 17.
And there you have it, our all-star line up for the 2017/2018 season. As always, we will do our best to keep you as updated as possible on each of our athletes so you can be sure to follow all of your favorite USA Nordic skiers!
With the coming together of men’s and women’s Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined, USA Nordic is excited to announce another step in the process of developing the best athletes in the world: the establishment of a women’s Junior National Team. This team uses very similar criteria as the men’s Junior National Team and is part of the effort develop parallel pathways for both women and men and giving them the best opportunities at age appropriate levels to develop into world class athletes.
Athletes named to the team:
We believe this will be a step in the right direction allowing for improved communication, continuity between men’s and women’s teams, and equity with regards to support and opportunity for advancement. The overall feedback has been positive with regards to the changes that were implemented earlier this summer for the men. Beckett Ledger recently stated, “I feel like we are more of a team than ever before. We have more guidance and structure with everything from coaching to training plans, which is insanely helpful.” At the same time we recognize that there are still many improvements that need to be made in the years to come with regards to sport and athlete development, but we feel that we are headed in the right direction.
Blake Hughes has already been working with athletes and families on winter plans and we will have six athletes going to the FIS and Continental Cups in Whistler, Canada, and four athletes attending the Continental Cup in Notodden, Norway. Cara Larson is one of the athletes attending these competitions, and she said “I am excited, especially with USA Nordic and WSJUSA joining as one. I think it is a really big step for us. I can’t wait to get on the snow and compete!” In addition to Ski Jumping competitions, Gabby Armstrong and Tara Geraghty-Moats also plan on competing in Women’s Nordic Combined Continental Cups later this winter, which we are thrilled about.
Congratulations to all women, and we look forward to working with them as one team as we continue to improve our system of developing the best athletes in the world.
By: Jed Hinkley
11/24: FIS Nordic Combined World Cup 8:30a-9:25a ET (Streaming on the Olympic Channel app & at https://www.olympicchannel.com/)
11/24: FIS Nordic Combined World Cup – Individual Gundersen 5km 11:15a-11:45p (Streaming on the Olympic Channel app & at https://www.olympicchannel.com/)
11/25: FIS Nordic Combined World Cup – HS142 3:45a-4:40a ET (Streaming on the Olympic Channel app & at https://www.olympicchannel.com/)
11/25: FIS Nordic Combined World Cup – Individual Gundersen 10km 8:30a-9:15a ET (Streaming on the Olympic Channel app & at https://www.olympicchannel.com/)
11/26: FIS Nordic Combined World Cup 4:45a-5:40a ET (Streaming on the Olympic Channel app & at https://www.olympicchannel.com/)
11/26: FIS Nordic Combined World Cup – Individual Gundersen 10km 7:30a-8:15a (Streaming on the Olympic Channel app & at https://www.olympicchannel.com/)
11/24: FIS Ski Jumping World Cup – Men’s Qualifications, Ruka, Finland 11:55a-1:05p (Streaming on the Olympic Channel app & at https://www.olympicchannel.com/)
11/25: FIS Ski Jumping World Cup – Men’s Team, Ruka, Finland 10:15a-12:15p ET (Streaming on the Olympic Channel app & at https://www.olympicchannel.com/)
11/25: FIS Ski Jumping World Cup – Men’s Team, Ruka, Finland 3:30p-5p (Airs SDD on Olympic Channel TV)
11/26: FIS Ski Jumping World Cup – Men’s Individual, Ruka, Finland 9a-10:50a ET (Streaming on the Olympic Channel app & at https://www.olympicchannel.com/)
11/26: FIS Ski Jumping World Cup – Men’s Individual, Ruka, Finland 6p-7:30p (Airs SDD on Olympic Channel TV)
GO USA NORDIC!
Ski Jumping is a sport with a rich history. It seems like every competition I go to is the “Oldest….something.” And those somethings are impressive, like the first competitive ski competition in the United States, or the oldest ski club in America. After all, we are the #originalextremesport and, being a Nordic discipline, our sport predates the fixed heel disciplines, let alone anything with the prefix “Big” or suffix “cross.” As you look around the country the dates of clubs are often in the late 1800s or early 1900s and many of the names would be recognizable by coaches flagging athletes over 50 years ago: Denney, Tokle, and Maki, just to name a few. And thank goodness for this. These names continue to be the lifeblood of our sport.
It is precisely the phenomenon described above that makes what is happening more than 3,000 miles from the birth places of Ski Jumping in America so surprising and extra-ordinary. Compton and Murray are not names familiar to Ski Jumping historians. And against all odds they have managed to double-handedly take a club in Alaska from four skiers in 2010 to the second largest club in the country.
So how did they find the athletes? The last five years Team Alaska has invited USA Nordic and Women’s Ski Jumping Staff and athletes to come up and help them recruit. They have flown us up their using frequent flyer miles and put us up while we are there, and I have had the privilege of going the last two years. This year Abby Ringquist returned for the third time, which was awesome. Kids need heroes and it was so cool to see their eyes light up when we told them that Abby would likely be in the Olympics this year. While there, we used the Physical Education Class Recruitment Program, which can be found here. Each year we have visited 4-6 schools and reached over 300 kids, sometimes as many as 500. The recruiting rotates elementary schools to broaden the reach, but targets schools in Anchorage that are close to the jump. This year, Karen Compton had already received multiple calls about the program before Abby and I had left town, which is great. But maybe even more importantly, nearly 300 kids now know about ski jumping, and though this cannot necessarily be quantified by conversion rate to ski jumping, the community is becoming aware of our sport. Every year more and more kids raise their hands when we ask if they have ever seen the ski jumps by Hill Top Ski Area. Awareness, enthusiasm, and participation are infectious and the word continues to spread. Team AK also is raising awareness in many other ways including local year round features on TV, radio, and in print. They also attend events put on by Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage and Fast and Female in addition to others.
In my opinion, in many ways the growth of Alaskan Ski Jumping is happening because Karen and Vivienne do not come from a lineage of Ski Jumpers that goes back 100 years. Since there was really no one at the club to show them the ropes when they started they didn’t know what they didn’t know, so they were able take novel approaches. When they needed athletes they went to where the kids are. When they needed a coach, they contradicted what other ski disciplines were doing in the area and went and got not one but two coaches to move to Alaska to coach and paid both of instead of just relying on volunteer coaches. When people said you will never be able to raise the money to put plastic on the jumps, they got a lobbyist and convinced the Alaska state legislature to allocate $1,000,000 to the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage. When the common wisdom in today’s day and age is that parents just won’t volunteer and you can’t get them involved, their work parties often are include dozens of parents. And the list goes on.
The Result: Four hills with brand new plastic, two certified coaches, over 90 athletes, kids making progress, and happy parents. I attribute this to five main factors:
- Good communication with parents
- Enthusiasm and innovation
- High quality, paid coaches
- Creating a community that had fun both on the hill and off the hill
- Grant writing and a fee structure that allows them to pay coaches and do facility upgrades
The point of this article is not to imply that other clubs are not doing amazing things, because they are, and I see it as I travel all over the country and have written about it in past articles like this one and this one in addition to others. The point is we all could benefit from taking a fresh look at things and make sure we are not doing what we have always done even if it is not working and even more importantly make sure we don’t limit what is possible because of the history of our clubs and see the possibility to take things to the next level. This includes me.
By Jed Hinkley
Two time Olympic Ski Jumper Eugene Robert “Gene” Kotlarek passed away November 9th in his hometown of Colorado Springs, CO. Kotlarek, who was a ski jumping legend in the 1960s, was 77 years old.
Gene Kotlarek grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, where he began skiing at the age of five under the tutelage of his father George. By the age of 17, he had won the Minnesota State High School title, as well as the Boys title at the National Junior Championship. Kotlarek was named to his first Olympic team in 1960, representing the US on home soil at Squaw Valley. It was the first of two Olympic teams Kotlarek would be a part of, as he was named again in 1964. Major highlights of his skiing career include three National Titles in 1963, 1966, and 1967, as well as setting the American distance record, flying 454 feet in Oberstdorf, Germany in 1964. The record stood for nearly a decade.
Kotlarek was the inspiration for a generation of skiers including fellow Duluth Olympians Jim and Jeff Denney.
“Growing up in Chester Bowl, Gene was the Mickey Mantle of our generation,” Jeff Denney told Rick Weegman of the Duluth News Tribune. “You knew his name, you knew his picture. Even as little kids, you knew Gene Kotlarek. We were all inspired to be Gene Kotlarek one day.”
“Gene and John “The Bullet” Balfanz were not only great competitors during their major competition days, but were good friends” according to Jim Balfanz. “Gene told me back at Jim’s funeral in 1991 that the new Northland skis that Jim had sold him allowed him to set that hill record and win the USSA Championships in Steamboat Springs. Gene was a terrific person and will be greatly missed.”
Following an early retirement from skiing due to injury, Kotlarek spent time as a National Team coach from 1968-1970. Over 40 years later, Kotlarek still considered his time coaching as his “toughest job yet.” Kotlarek received his B.A. in business from the University of Minnesota in 1963 and moved into the accounting world after retiring from coaching. Although he moved on from the ski team, Gene couldn’t stay away from sport and would eventually take over as the President of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Association.
“He was a prominent advocate for athletes rights, the integrity of athletes accomplishments and was a vocal proponent of the Olympic ideals” said Diane Simpson, who served on the USOPA board with Gene for over a decade.
His great friend and fellow Olympian, Dick Fosbury remembered, “Gene was a self starter and he reached out to me about activating the midwest (USOPA) chapter with a bold plan to separate it into multiple chapters to garner increased engagement. He was such an enthusiastic guy and a visionary and that move really did help get a lot more Olympians working together because it got more people involved at the local level. He is really going to be missed.”
Michelle Dusserre-Farrell, his successor as president of the CO USOPA, had nothing but kind words for her predecessor:
“Gene was instrumental in a variety of leadership roles in the Olympic sports movement. As a long time President of the Colorado Chapter of Olympians and Paralympian’s he was instrumental in efforts to integrate Olympians into mainstream sport and media from the annual (CO Rockies) game to his famous “Ski with an Olympian,” event that drew Olympians from across summer and winter sports to celebrate the Olympic movement.”
“He loved being an Olympian and traveling to Ishpeming in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan every year to meet up with his fellow ski jumping alumni at the Ski Hall of Fame,” added current USOPA Board President Cindy Stinger. “For our chapter he really made our Christmas gatherings special it was always a wonderful way to bring in the New Year. You will be missed by so many who loved you.”
Gene is survived by his loving wife Barbara. As a huge piece of the ski jumping community and the larger Olympic family, Gene will be greatly missed by all of his teammates, friends and family.
Click Here to read Gene’s submission to the US Nordic Story Project from 2012.
A Celebration of Life will be held in Gene’s honor sometime following the holiday season.
*All dates, results, and pictures courtesy of American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame, USA Nordic Story Project, and Wikipedia
How long do workers stay in their jobs today? According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the average is 4.4 years. This makes what Tim Norris has accomplished that much more impressive. Tim began coaching Ski Jumping at Proctor Academy in 1969 and in 1976 started the Andover (NH) Outing Club. When did he retire? This September. That’s right, Tim Norris coached Ski Jumping in Andover, NH every single winter for the last 48 years! That is hard to even imagine, especially given all the work that has to go into hill preparation and the nights and weekends that coaching Ski Jumping requires. But now a new era of Ski Jumping begins in Andover with Chris Jones, and I cannot think of a better person to fill Tim’s shoes, which are certainly some big shoes to fill (no pressure).
I could go on and on about Tim’s accomplishments, but I think the athletes he produced speak for themselves. Andover is a fine but modest facility- there are K10, K20, K30/38 hills with lights, snowmaking, but no plastic, and the town has about 2000 people. You wouldn’t believe that it could produce Olympic caliber skiers but that is the magic of Tim. Over the years his programs have given the USA five Olympians, including Carl Van Loan (2002, and 2006 Olympian), Nick Fairall (2014 Olympian), myself (2002 Olympian), and cross country skiers Kris Freeman (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 Olympian) and Justin Freeman (2006 Olympian) who were both products of Tim’s programs and ski jumped for many years. Tim also coached Chris Lamb who was a long time Ski Jumping National Team member, and so many more athletes. And though Olympians get a lot of the attention Tim’s philosophy was that “the worst athlete needs to feel as important as the best, if not more because otherwise why are we doing this.” Tim built character, perseverance, courage, and compassion, which are much more important than the number of Olympics an athlete attends. The results of his efforts are everywhere, and it is because of these that he was inducted in the Ski Jumping and Proctor Academy Athletics Halls of Fame this year.
So now Chris Jones will steer the ship for the Andover Outing Club, and will be charged with re-establishing the Proctor Jumping program, which has been relatively inactive in the last couple of years. Chris is the perfect fit. He is a product of both the Andover Outing Club and Tim and also a Proctor Alum. After graduating from Proctor Academy in 2004, Chris spent a year living in Coleraine, MN training and competing. He then attended UNH, and earned a degree in Athletic Training, and for the last three years Chris has been an athletic trainer at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, VT. This past summer Chris and his wife Lindsay decided that they wanted to relocate closer, and Lindsay is now teaching art at Claremont Middle School. Chris’ position has him being an athletic trainer in the fall and spring, and allows him to be a full-time Ski Jumping coach in the winter. He will coach AOC, Proctor, and also continue to be the coach for the New England Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined (NESJNC) club, see article here. Proctor Athletic Director Gregor Makechnie says “we are confident Chris possesses the technical ability, personality and enthusiasm for ski jumping to reestablish the proud tradition of jumping at Proctor.”
I have spoken with Chris on multiple occasions about the new position. “I am excited to be at AOC and Proctor and to be part of the programs that gave me my start, and have produced so many quality athletes.” Chris has plans to go into the local schools and begin recruiting and has also volunteered to help other clubs in the area on their efforts to boost participation. With the strong program at Ford Sayre, and the facility upgrades happening at Lebanon, central New Hampshire is poised for a big step forward in the next few years. We are looking forward to it and excited for Chris to be a big piece of the puzzle.
For those who are interested, there will be a Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Reunion hosted by New England Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined and honoring Tim on November 11th at the Eastman Golf Links in Grantham, NH. RSVP to Bill McCrillis at WMcCrillis@gmail.com or call (302)898-4296.
By Jed Hinkley
The summer season has officially ended and our athletes are gearing up for winter. It has been a busy transition for everyone as we shift our focus towards the beginning of an Olympic season. Our biggest announcement of the year came earlier this month when USA Nordic took over the day-to-day operations for Women’s Ski Jumping USA. It has always been our goal to unify our sports in order to ensure the growth and development of the disciplines at all levels, and we are proud to take this necessary and logical next step. More than anything, we are excited about the upcoming season and the potential we see in all of our athletes. It has been a great summer and we look forward to seeing what happens when the snow flies.
October began with our athletes (most of whom were returning from Europe) traveling to Lake Placid, New York, for the Flaming Leaves Festival and 2018 Ski Jumping Normal Hill National Championships, as well as the Nordic Combined National Championships. USA Nordic brought its largest group of athletes in years to the event with over 35 athletes, men and women, junior and senior present. The leaves were beautiful as always, but the air was a little tricky. Despite the conditions, all of the athletes gave their best and three champions were crowned.
Michael Glasder of USA Nordic took home the title of Normal Hill National Champion for the second time in three years: “It was great to take home the National Championships this year in Lake Placid. I was feeling very confident heading into the weekend because of all of the hard work that has taken place this summer. I’m looking to keep things rolling into the fast approaching winter season,” said Glasder.
It was familiar territory for Glasder, who also won US Nationals on the K90 in Lake Placid in 2015. He was joined on the podium by Kevin Bickner (2nd) and Bryan Fletcher (3rd). Canadian Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes of Ski Jump Canada was second overall in the competition, but is not eligible for a U.S. Championships medal.
On the Nordic Combined side of things, USA Nordic athlete Bryan Fletcher delivered the steady performance of a seasoned pro and notched his third national title. Strong jumping allowed Fletcher to begin the race with a comfortable lead, but Fletcher didn’t use that as an excuse not to push himself: “Despite the lead, I wanted to race well so I went out at a strong pace and tried to build on the lead I had, and I was able to accomplish that goal.”
Just behind Fletcher, USA Nordic athletes Ben Loomis and Jasper Good both had strong performances, each stepping onto the podium for the first time with Loomis in second and Good taking third.
Nina Lussi was the big winner of the weekend, taking home the title of Women’s Normal Hill National Champion, as well as the first ever title of Women’s Nordic Combined National Champion, “This was an important check-in with the rest of the US team, and I’m proud to say I notched two further National titles,” said Lussi. “To have good jumps in front of my home crowd was awesome, and I was proud to show what exactly I’ve been up to all summer.”
In the Ski Jumping competition, Lussi was followed by USA Nordic athletes Nita Englund in second and Abby Ringquist in third. Lussi, who has spent her summer living and training in Europe, has earned a spot on the “C” team as a result of her efforts on the hill.
One of the weekend’s biggest highlights was the crowning of the first ever Women’s Nordic Combined National Champion. The event was the first of its kind in the US, and is part of a larger movement in the international community to develop the sport of Nordic Combined for women. Lussi was joined by one other competitor, Gabby Armstrong from Lake Placid. Though only two women competed in the event, and the pre-comp favorite, Tara Geraghty-Moats, was not able to compete due to a broken arm suffered earlier in the fall, it was an important and necessary step to get women’s Nordic Combined off the ground in the US. Internationally, women’s Nordic Combined programs have been ramping up in multiple nations with FIS busy promoting and developing the sport for women. The inclusion of a demonstration event at this year’s Junior World Championships, as well as a Women’s event at the 2020 Youth Winter Olympics, will provide both a goal and stepping stone in the sport that had not previously existed.
The event also capped off a solid summer for the Junior National teams. Thirteen athletes attended a week-long camp, alongside national team athletes and coaches. Athletes stayed at the Olympic Training Center and it was a great opportunity to interact across ages, abilities, and genders, as we move forward as one team. National and Junior National team athletes even helped with a recruiting event at a Lake Placid Elementary, where they taught first and second graders about Ski Jumping. Now athletes have headed home to get some final summer jumps in and then wait for the snow to come. There are some exciting opportunities for both National and Junior National team athletes beginning in December, with Junior World Qualifiers, Continental and FIS Cups in Whistler, BC, and a Nordic Combined Continental Cup in Steamboat Springs.
Although the end of summer competitions usually provides a small respite from the training and travel, USA Nordic athletes will find themselves as busy as ever as they prepare for the upcoming season. Our men’s World Cup Ski Jumping team will be heading to Europe for an ice track camp October 22-28. They’ll return home for a few days, before heading back to Europe on November 10 to prepare for the first World Cup of the season. Our women’s World Cup Ski Jumping team is currently training in Austria with plans to complete an ice camp at the end of the month in Oberstdorf, Germany. After a few weeks at home, the World Cup team will travel to Falun, Sweden, during the week of Thanksgiving in order to prep for their first World Cup action in Lillehammer, Norway, on December 1. Meanwhile, the Nordic Combined World Cup team will also be attending an ice track camp in Europe October 23 to November 4. Like the rest of the teams, our Nordic Combined athletes will enjoy a few days at home before leaving November 19 to prepare for their World Cup opener in Ruka, Finland. It has been a very successful summer for many athletes, junior and senior, and we here at USA Nordic are looking forward to the winter. We are excited to see what the athletes can do!
USA Nordic Sport Women’s Ski Jumping National Team athlete Sarah Hendrickson. (Photo Credit – Ben Pieper)
USA Nordic Sport has officially announced the members of the first ever USA Nordic Sport Women’s Ski Jumping National Team. After coming to an agreement with Women’s Ski Jumping USA (WSJ USA) to take over day to day operations earlier this month, USA Nordic is proud and excited to name five women to the inaugural team.
Nita Englund, Tara Geraghty-Moats, Sarah Hendrickson, and Abby Ringquist have all been named to the “A” team based on results accumulated over the past year that meet the criteria established by USA Nordic. Additionally, Nina Lussi has been named to the “C” team following her winning performance at the US National Championships in Lake Placid, New York earlier this month.
Billy Demong, Executive Director of USA Nordic, shared, “We are really excited to matrix in the women’s team after a really successful summer of working together more, as Igor Cuznar (Women’s World Cup coach) scheduled team activities, together with Men’s coach Bine Norcic. Additionally, Alan Alborn and Clint Jones have worked together for years as athletes and coaches, and moving forward they will be able to support each other and work together to ensure that all of our athletes are getting the best support and opportunities USA Nordic can offer.”
While the addition of the women’s team is a huge change for the organization, USA Nordic and a large segment of the Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined community have felt for some time it is in the best interest of both men and women to work together. This change will be beneficial to both female and male athletes, who shouldn’t notice any changes or disruption in their day to day training or preparation and was supported by the athletes themselves.
“I’m very excited to work with the men as I look up to them as athletes, idols and good people,” said National Team member Sarah Hendrickson. “The future is bright for both the men’s and women’s team in Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined and there is not better way to capture that momentum than working as one team.”
“I’m really looking forward to being one team this winter,” added team member Tara Geraghty-Moats. “In my experience, more ski jumpers working together leads to more fun and better results.”
With it’s continued focus on development and growth of the Nordic sports as well as a continued focus on equity in sport, USA Nordic will also be naming a women’s Junior National team. The junior team will provide a necessary stepping stone for women in Ski Jumping to take their personal ability and their sport to the next level. This change will also allow USA Nordic to better support and coordinate efforts to grow the emerging sport of Women’s Nordic Combined both at a junior and senior level.
USA Nordic is excited to announce that it has come to an agreement with Women’s Ski Jumping USA (WSJ USA) to take over full responsibilities for the daily operations of the women’s National team, in order to unify and strengthen the United States’ overall presence in the international field. Recognizing that Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined are extremely unique sports and communities in the US, the two organizations will combine efforts moving forward, to ensure that all of their athletes have equitable opportunity and support.
“As USA Nordic has grown, we have invested in programs and opportunities which benefit all Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined athletes from youth programs at the club level, to some of the best coaches in the world, in order to support our bid to get American athletes on the podium,” said Billy Demong, Executive Director of USA Nordic and 2010 gold medalist. “Coming together in this Olympic season is the perfect springboard, ensuring sustainable financial support and competitive success for all of our athletes.”
By working as one team, USA Nordic looks to promote overall equality among its athletes and its funding levels, as well as fully fund the women’s World Cup team. They will also provide shared resources in sports psychology, coaching, physical therapy and equipment, and strengthen the development of the sport’s younger members and culture among its newer athletes, parents and communities.
“As all of our teams continue to train together on the hill, including the women’s National team, it is clear that we are one team and are stronger together. WSJ USA has accomplished amazing things working for equality in ski jumping and we are ecstatic to be able to help them accomplish their mission as we move forward as one,” said Demong.
“This is clearly the logical next step for the women jumpers,” said Peter Jerome, father of former National Team athlete Jessica Jerome, and the founder of WSJ USA. “It is my hope that the athletes and staff will be able to capitalize on the significant accomplishments of both organizations in recent years and work closely with the US Ski and Snowboard Association with the goal of developing and fielding best in the world athletes in Nordic ski jumping and Nordic combined.”
“I am encouraged by the effort the USA Nordic community has been putting into working together for the sustainable future of the sport,” said Alan Alborn, Head Coach of WSJ USA. “We have all known for some time the evolution of the men’s and women’s National team programs would consolidate efforts. Leading into the Olympic season, this decision from WSJ USA will further unite the athletes and support staff as well as the greater community in a crucial time leading into this winter season.”
Throughout the summer, athletes from both USA Nordic and WSJ USA have spent more time together than ever before, and the results and reactions have been positive on all fronts.
“Being an American ski jumper isn’t easy, so to work together overseas can only bring us strength of unity,” said WSJ USA athlete and 2013 World Champion Sarah Hendrickson. “The community in ski jumping and Nordic combined in the states is a small family. It only makes sense to work together as we fight for equality across the sport. Sharing coaches and plans makes sense from all aspects and it excites me for the future.”
“Success on either side will be shared by all involved which will further foster growth and development on all levels. The athletes will feed off each other’s successes and learn from each other’s failures and in doing so will very much create a unified team mentality,” said Bryan Fletcher, a senior member of the Nordic Combined National team.
USA Nordic Ski Jumper Kevin Bickner echoed that sense of teamwork that has always existed between the athletes: “By working together we can pool our resources and make the most of what we have. A bigger team means a stronger team.”
As Bickner pointed out, “This is how every other country in the world does it and I’m glad we’re finally making that transition.”
It’s been a great summer here in Park City and the USA Nordic staff have been hard at work preparing for another big season. The leaves are changing, plans for the winter are starting to come into focus, and our athletes are wrapping up the summer competition season. The summer has seen mixed results, but overall there were plenty of highlights.
Kevin Bickner led the charge for Men’s Ski Jumping this summer, tying a career best seventh place finish at the Summer Grand Prix in Hakuba, Japan. The result was a repeat of a year earlier, but Kevin felt that his results in Japan were more consistent this year, which is always the goal. Kevin’s other highlights included a podium finish at the Continental Cup in Kranj, Slovenia earlier this summer, when he had the longest jump of the second round, boosting himself to third. Michael Glasder also had a strong summer that included a pair of top 30 finishes on the Grand Prix tour. “The summer has been progressing steadily for me and the hard work from myself along with the coaching staff is starting to pay off,” said Glasder, “I’m looking to finish the summer season strong.” Most recently, Michael posted a career best 28th place in Chaikovsky, Russia.
(Photo Credit – Romina Eggert)
Not to be outdone, Nordic Combined team leaders Bryan and Taylor Fletcher had some solid results of their own. Taylor has had the top result so far this summer, posting an 11th place in Oberwiestenthal, Germany, as well as another top 25 in Oberstdorf, Germany. While the jumping has been up and down, Taylor has shown that he’s as strong as ever on the race course. Taylor had race time ranks of second, third, and forth fastest, and currently wears the red bib as the fastest skier at the Summer Grand Prix series. Meanwhile, Bryan was able to finish in the top 30 three times, including 15th in Tschagguns, Austria, where he posted the sixth fastest time. In addition, Adam Loomis tied his best international result, finishing 28th in Oberstdorf in his only international action thus far.
(Photo Credit – Romina Eggert)
Women’s Ski Jumping has had a solid summer, including four women finishing in the top 30 in multiple Summer Grand Prix competitions. Sarah Hendrickson has continued to improve on her path to recovery and finished the Grand Prix series ranked 14th overall for the summer. Her top results included a pair of top tens: eighth in Courchevel, France, and ninth in Frenstat, Czech Republic. “I am really proud of the progress I have made,” said Hendrickson adding that she was “ready for this season to start.”
Abby Ringquist, who has had one of her best summers ever, said that ” the consistency in my jumps, and in my results is a huge confidence booster going into the season.” Her results have including three top 20’s, and Ringquist finished her summer with a ranking of 19th. Both Tara-Geraghty Moats and Nita Englund nabbed a pair of top 30 finishes, with Tara placing 27th in Courchevel and 24th in Frenstat, and Nita placing 30th in Frenstat and 26th in Chaikovsky.
(Photo Credit – FIS/Sandra Volk)
While the summer may not be over, it is winding down with only a few international competitions left before snow flies. The men’s Ski Jumping Summer Grand Prix will finish the first weekend in October, with events in Hinzenbach, Germany, and Klingenthal, Germany. The women’s Grand Prix has concluded for the summer, and the ladies will be home training for the fall. The Nordic Combined skiers have a pair of events in Planica, Slovenia, the last weekend in September, which will end their Summer Grand Prix season. On the domestic side, Lake Placid will host the LL Bean US Normal Hill Ski Jumping National Championships, as well as the LL Bean US Nordic Combined National Championships on October 7th and 8th for both men and women.
Thanks to all of you for your dedication to the sport and your support. These athletes couldn’t do what they do without the overwhelming support that our community gives to them.