PARK CITY, UT – USA Nordic Sport added another familiar face to their staff earlier this month: former Nordic Combined athlete Alex Glueck, to serve as Field Marketing and Communications Manager. This new position is intended to increase focus on fundraising opportunities, including a growing merchandise program, as well as day-to-day media relations and communications. 

Glueck spent nearly a decade as a member of the National Team from 2000 through 2009. Though more familiar on the Continental Cup tour, Glueck’s career included a handful of World Cup appearances, as well as a Silver Medal at the 2002 Junior World Championships in Schonach, Germany. After leaving skiing in 2009, Glueck moved to Denver, CO, where he studied Philosophy and English Literature at the University of Colorado. Prior to joining the USA Nordic staff, Glueck worked in sales and the restaurant industry.

“When I finished skiing I was burnt out and I needed a change,” said Glueck. “I always missed skiing though, and when Bill called me out of the blue one day, we discussed a full-time position with USA Nordic.”

After seven years away from the team, Glueck is excited to be involved in the sport he cares so much about once again. His experience in management and customer service lends itself to the business and marketing side of his role, while his education gives Glueck the tools he needs to help USA Nordic go from a niche sport to mainstream, in the eyes of the sports media. 

“I’ve always wanted to come back to this sport and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to help this team be as great as we all know it can be.”

Glueck now lives in Heber City, UT, with his wife Molly Brooks and their two dogs. He can be reached at alex@usanordic.org.

PARK CITY, UT – Last weekend in Lausanne, Switzerland, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the addition of  Women’s Nordic Combined at the upcoming 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games being held in Lausanne. The inclusion of the women’s event is part of a greater effort by the IOC towards gender equity that has seen the inclusion of more women’s fields and mixed fields over the past decade.

The news comes less than two months after USA Nordic Sport announced the inclusion of a Women’s Nordic Combined event at the 2018 US National Championships being held October 7 in Lake Placid, NY.

“This is a really exciting development in line with FIS and USA Nordic’s efforts to fast track Women’s Nordic Combined,” said Executive Director Bill Demong of USA Nordic. “With a great crop of young talent in the United States, we are excited to have this event showcased on the world stage so soon, and we are looking forward to continuing to develop opportunities for young women eligible for the Games, like the FIS Youth Cup trip planned for August.”

The announcement was one of several exciting developments that came at the conclusion of the meeting of the Executive Board of the IOC. Other decisions made at the meeting included the addition of an “innovative” mixed three on three ice hockey tournament, a women’s doubles event in luge, and, finally, ski mountaineering will be included for the first time in Lausanne.

You may remember a childhood or school game called “telephone.”   Kids get in a circle and pass a message from one to another.  After the message has travelled around the room, the original message is unrecognizable or completely wrong.

I feel like this describes being a relatively new parent to ski jumping with no ski jumping experience. We hear a lot of theories, but never know which ones are true, and we don’t know what we don’t know.

This spring a group of parents from Blackhawk decided to try and improve the knowledge of both athletes and parents.  We reached out to Jed Hinkley at USANS to see if he had any thoughts on a coach who might be willing to help for a few weeks to create a consistent approach for both kids and parents alike. After discussion about domestic coaches and national team coaches, Jed Hinkley connected us with Kimmo Yliriesto. Kimmo was on the World Cup circuit for many years and has been coaching ski jumping for the past six years. Kimmo also had some Midwest cred, holding the current record at Norge and winning Iron Mountain.

What sounded like a long shot turned into an opportunity for Central. It also showed how USANS and small clubs can work together for the greater good. Kimmo agreed to help, and instead of working with just Blackhawk we decided that it would be great if athletes from across Central could participate in camps so the benefit was division wide and more clubs, coaches, and athletes could work together toward a common approach to jumping. Ishpeming and St. Paul were the first to raise their hands. We now had three camps for Kimmo to coach and share his insights. Each clubs would organize their own camp and provide different opportunities, and Kimmo would help athletes and coaches who participated in the camps, allowing Kimmo to spend three weeks coaching in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. Other athletes, parents, and coaches also volunteered to help with activities off the hill and some Nordic Combined sessions as well.

The Ishpeming camp was a big success, with over 25 jumpers attending! Most of us had never been to Ishpeming before, and it was great. Gary Rasmussen has done an excellent job over the past year, and now has over 20 kids showing up for practice during the summer, and even more this past winter, and Dick Ziegler is doing an amazing job on the Cross Country side. It was at Ishpeming that we first noticed Kimmo’s coaching style.

Everyone was evaluated, and almost everyone was placed on the 10-meter or 20-meter jump. No one was allowed to go to the 40-meter jump despite several jumpers being in the appropriate age range. No amount of persuading by the kids would change Kimmo’s mind.

The same thing happened at the Blackhawk practice the following week. Kimmo kept everyone on the 15 meter for the first week. Kids had to earn the right to go to 30 or 60 meter jumps, which was based on skill, not just their ability to slide off the jump.

I can tell you as a parent, I silently questioned his logic. I wanted my kids jumping the bigger hills and felt like they would not benefit as much from the smaller jumps. However, I kept my doubts to myself.

The St. Paul camp was no different. Dave and Sue Swanson did a great job putting on the camp. St. Paul has two hills (one 20 meter, the other is a 46 meter) with plastic. On the first day, only one jumper was allowed to leave the 20 meter hill. Several parents voiced their frustration to me, but I asked them to have faith.

Next was the Blackhawk camp. Clint Jones, USANS Team Director, joined our camp to coach with Kimmo and our local coaches. Thirty-two jumpers from 10 different clubs attended the camp. It was great to see 100% participation from Central clubs.

What did we learn from Kimmo’s three weeks in the U.S. and Clint’s visit?

Lesson One: Kimmo likes to shop. He never met an outlet mall he didn’t like.

Lesson Two: You should CONSISTENTLY go to K with good form and a telemark before expecting to move up, in addition to possessing skills like a balanced in-run, a take-off where you use your legs and push down, and a solid flight. This means every jump is good — not one out of five. If European jumpers do indeed have an advantage over American jumpers, it is their discipline to get close to perfect before moving up.

Kimmo kept the kids on the largest hill they could jump well. For many kids, this meant staying on the 15 or 20 meter jump all weekend.  Age did not matter; jumping skill is what mattered. Every time a kid jumps a hill with bad form or is scared, they build that into their muscle memory. It makes them more likely to repeat the same mistake and to make a habit of those bad mistakes. As Clint said, “90% of a coach’s job is undoing the bad habits jumpers have picked up over the years.”

It takes hundreds of successful small jumps in order to have successful big jumps. Hundreds of successful small jumps build muscle memory, confidence, judgment, and skill in different conditions. Kids should be absolutely killing it on a small hill before moving up. I think this was Kimmo’s main message.

Lesson Three:  Is related to lesson two, the smartest jumpers and coaches are moving down to improve. Yes, you shouldn’t move up until you have it right, but you should also move down again if problems develop. Don’t try to work out problems on the largest jumps. Moving down to improve your jumping is a smart move in almost all cases. You can unlearn bad habits or learn new skills where you are more confident and comfortable.

Kimmo told a story of going back to a 60-meter jump to work out a problem after he had been jumping 120-meter hills for years. He spent three months trying to work it out. He came back a stronger jumper than ever before.  We watched this happen with multiple jumpers over the three-week period.  Hill size should be flexible, moving up and down as needed, and just because you move up to a larger hill does not mean that you exclusively jump that hill or that you are a larger hill jumper.

Lesson Four: USANS wants to support families and clubs. We asked a lot of Jed, and he delivered both Kimmo and Clint to our club in an effort to improve the level of athletes and coaches and to create a common approach to coaching. Clint did a great job with both jumpers and coaches. Reach out to Jed if you need anything; he is there to help.

Lesson Five: Get creative to find solutions that work for your group or club.  Three clubs put on three successful camps in three weeks. Seventy-one jumpers from 10 different clubs participated in the three camps. Ten coaches attended two coach training sessions with Clint Jones.

Central is very different from clubs like Park City or Steamboat. Having small clubs several hours away from each other is the norm. Central’s unique structure needs unique and creative solutions. When we all work together, we can do great things for our kids and coaches while making it affordable for everyone.  USANS teaming with small clubs allowed us to do something new and different.

Lesson Six: Keep it fun. Kimmo went to a lot effort to keep it fun. If kids aren’t having fun, they may find another sport.  We will work harder in the future to make it fun for the kids. Water balloon fights in St. Paul and the dry-land survivor game at Blackhawk were big hits with the kids.

Lee Hull and Jed Hinkley contributed to this article.

Photo Credit Romina Eggert

KRANJ, Slovenia (July 10th, 2017) – Kevin Bickner led the way for team USA this past weekend at the first Continental Cups of the 2017/2018 season in Kranj, Slovenia. Bickner, who is coming off a strong finish to the winter season, posted a career high 3rd place on Saturday in the second of two competitions in as many days.

After jumping to only 15th in the first round, Bickner had the longest jump of the weekend in the second round flying 115 meters on the K100. The huge jump moved Kevin to the top of the leader board for most of the round and, after the last jumper had landed, Kevin was able to hang on to the podium with 238 points.

Poland’s Klemens Muranka took the top spot on Saturday with 253.6 points. Slovenia’s Rok Justin took second with 242.6 points. 

Other top North American finishers on Saturday included Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes in 16th with 221.3 points, Will Rhoads in 23rd with 216.6 points, and Michael Glasder in 28th with 211.9 points.

“The weekend went pretty well, there was improvement on the same competition last year,” Bickner told USANS following the competition. “It was my best Continental Cup result…I was able to do what I was working on on the hill.” While happy with his result, Bickner was focused on the future as he always is, “There’s always more stuff to work on; I’ll see if I can improve on this weekend next weekend.”

Friday night proved a little more difficult for the mens team. Competition was extremely tight with every jumper in the top 30 flying at least 100 meters just to qualify for the second round. As he did on Saturday, Klemens Muranka of Poland finished in first place with 284.7 points. Second place was claimed by Miran Zupancic of Slovenia with 282.8 points. And Bor Pavlovcic took third with 281.4 points.

Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes posted the highest North American result in 16th with 264.4 points. Bickner was just behind in 17th with 264.3 points. Michael Glasder was consistent with another 28th place on Friday, finishing with 211.9 points. Casey Larsen, who didn’t compete on Saturday, jumped a respectable 97 meters on Friday, just missing the cut for the second round.

The team will remain in Kranj for a few days of training before heading to Wisla, Poland, for the first summer Grand Prix competitions of the season on the 14th and 15th.

Results:

Kranj 7-7-17

Kranj 7-8-17

See Kevin jump here!

Alex Glueck and Romina Eggert contributed to this article.

USA Nordic is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to promote and develop the Nordic disciplines of Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined in the United States; assist U.S. athletes achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic, World Championship and other international competitions in the disciplines; and to promote the highest standards of sportsmanship, fair play, and good will between individuals of all nations through competition in the discipline sports. For more information, contact info@usanordic.org.

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PARK CITY, UT (June 22, 2017) – As the summer training season begins and athletes all over the world lay the groundwork for the upcoming Olympic season, USA Nordic has officially named their Men’s teams for the 2017/2018 season. 

Kevin Bickner will lead the Men’s Ski Jumping team as the only athlete to qualify for the A Team. Bickner had his best season last year, setting the new US distance record at 244.5 meters, and recording multiple top 20 World Cup finishes. A man of few words, who prefers to focus on his training rather than focus too far into the future, Bickner said that he’s “excited for the upcoming season.”

As for Nordic Combined, the team will once again be led by team stalwarts and brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher. The Fletchers, who have both represented the US in multiple Olympics past, will lead a strong team of younger skiers as the Nordic Combined team looks to recapture the strength and form that they showed in Vancouver in 2010. 

The complete teams are as follows:

Ski Jumping

A Team:

Kevin Bickner

B Team:

Casey Larson 

Michael Glasder

William Rhoads

C Team:

AJ Brown

Nicholas Mattoon

Nordic Combined

A Team:

Bryan Fletcher

Taylor Fletcher

B Team:

Adam Loomis

Ben Berend

Ben Loomis

Jasper Good

Stephen Schumann

C Team:

Grant Andrews

When asked how he felt about the team going into PyeongChang, Team Director Clint Jones said he was also excited about the momentum from last season: “We’ve got a good, young team. They had a few strong results toward the end of the season last year and we’re looking to build on those going into an Olympic year.”

PARK CITY, UT – USA Nordic recently announced that Martin Bayer has been selected as the new Head Coach for the Men’s Nordic Combined national team.

The promotion is the culmination of over 17 years as a coach in the US, at every level possible. Along with his extensive coaching experience, Bayer brings with him an innate knowledge of the sport, only shared by those who have spent time representing their country at the international level. Bayer competed at both the 92’ and 94’ Olympics for Czechoslovakia and the Slovak Republic, respectively.

Most recently, Bayer had been acting as the development team/continental cup team coach for USA Nordic Sport. While Martin’s close work with the national teams over the past few years makes him a natural fit for the role left vacant by retired head coach Dave Jarrett, it is his years of experience as a club coach that Bayer thinks have most prepared him to step into the role.

When he first came to the US to coach, Martin was surprised to find a financial lack of support and funding for the nordic sports in the US, as compared with countries in Europe. The added costs borne by parents in the US limit the opportunities and the accessibility of the sport. While a lack of funding is nothing new to the nordic disciplines, as the coach of a small club in Ishpeming, MI, and later the head coach of the entire central division, Bayer knows firsthand the challenges facing such a niche sport. It is his first-hand experience that Bayer believes will help him achieve success with the team.

Bayer feels that his years spent rising through the club ranks will make him better able to “relate to the parents and what they’re going through, relate to the athletes and what they’re looking at,” and to “put the best plan forward for the team, using the money we have.”

When asked about his new position, Bayer said he was “excited to be in this position and looking forward to working with everyone to get them the best results.”

 

Olympian and Coach John Bower Passes

PARK CITY, UT (June 8, 2017) – Olympic skier John Bower, the first American to win the prestigious nordic combined King’s Cup, as well as a formative coach and leader of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team, passed away June 6 in Park City. Bower, who was 76, played a pivotal role in the development of the Utah Olympic Park and establishment of its Olympic legacy facilities.

Bower grew up in Auburn, ME where he won an unprecedented four interscholastic state titles in 1959 at Edward Little High School. He went on to ski at Middlebury College, winning an NCAA nordic combined title in 1961, the first ever for a Middlebury Panther, as well as taking four U.S. titles in his career. He was a two-time Olympian finishing 15th in 1964 at Innsbruck and 13th at Grenoble in 1968 – the best finishes ever by an American nordic combined skier at the time.

His milestone accomplishment came at Norway’s Holmenkollen Ski Festival in 1968 where he became the first American to win the prestigious King’s Cup. His win at Holmenkollen set the standard for other Americans who followed him including Kerry Lynch (1983), Todd Lodwick (1998), Bill Demong (2009) and Bryan Fletcher (2012). The victory earned him an audience with the king of Norway in Oslo, as well as an invitation to a White House dinner in the king’s honor later that year.

After retirement, Bower went on to coach at his alma mater of Middlebury from 1968 to 1975. He then served as nordic director of the U.S. Ski Team from 1975 to 1980 – a highly successful period for the American team, before leaving to become athletic director at Principia College in western Illinois. He returned as the U.S. Ski Team’s nordic director from 1988-90.

“John Bower is a great example of a highly accomplished skier who dedicated his entire life to helping other athletes,” said U.S. Ski & Snowboard President and CEO Tiger Shaw. “In particular, his work in developing the Utah Olympic Park leading up to the 2002 Olympics was a key part of the legacy that is still positively impacting athletes today.”

Bower played a key role in that lead-up to the 2002 Olympics, serving as the first director for the Utah Winter Sports Park (now the Utah Olympic Park), overseeing development of venues and implementation of programs from 1990 to 1999.

“John was uniquely qualified and extremely effective in being the first to lead the team running the Utah Winter Sports Park,” said Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation President and CEO Colin Hilton. “He had a passion to see that athletes could train and develop at the newly created Sports Park. That passion and committed effort planted the seeds that helped shape the successful Olympic legacy we enjoy today.”

Since his retirement in 1999, Bower and his wife Bonnie have enjoyed an active lifestyle in both Moab and Park City. Bonnie played a leadership role in the start of the Park City Winter School. His son, Rick, was the 1999 halfpipe snowboarding world champion and is a highly-renowned halfpipe coach for the U.S. Snowboard Team.

Bower was named to the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame in 1969. He is one of Maine’s most recognized sport stars and a member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame and Lewiston Auburn Sports Hall of Fame. He joined the Middlebury College Hall of Fame in 2014. Bower is also an honorary member of the Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation board.

He received a BA degree in economics from Middlebury in 1963, earning a Masters Education specializing in recreation and resort management from Springfield College in 1967.

John was the son of Robert and Elizabeth Bower of Auburn, ME. He is survived by a sister, Sandra Colvard; his wife Bonnie; daughter Abbi and husband Shane Combs; as well as his son Rick and wife Gillian, and two grandchildren. John and Bonnie were devoted to their faith through the Christian Science Church.

No public memorial service is planned. Those who wish to acknowledge their friendship with John and his contribution to the community are asked to consider a donation in his name to the Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation (https://www.engenmuseum.org/donate) in Park City, where he was a founding board member.

Most of all, his family has asked that friends celebrate life and remember him with a smile, a joke and a Starbucks in hand.

Credit: Tom Kelly

Park City, Utah – US Ski & Snowboard excitedly announced that the inaugural Women’s Nordic Combined National Championships will be contested in Lake Placid, NY alongside their male counterparts on October 7th, 2017.

The announcement comes on the heels of a week of discussions at the USA Nordic spring meetings that included the importance of the addition of Women’s Nordic Combined. The timing coincides with international initiatives in the sport, like the inclusion of Women’s Nordic Combined on the upcoming seasons of the FIS Continental Cup schedule.

The addition of the Women’s event to national and international calendars has definitely been a goal for USA Nordic; “We are committed to keeping up and, to the best of our resources, staying ahead of the world as this event makes its debut at the senior level,” said USA Nordic’s Executive Director Billy Demong.

Demong, known as a pioneer in his own right as America’s first (and to date, only) Olympic Gold Medalist in Nordic Skiing, went on to note that “This is an opportunity that we are fully behind. We know that other nations will begin to turn on their funding and that when this becomes an Olympic event everyone will spend resources we can not match. Right now we have the opportunity and responsibility to take athletes like Tara Geraghty-Moats and Gabby Armstrong and develop them into leaders in the sport. It is our job to continue to innovate and support them so that they can lead Women’s Nordic Combined into the future with our crop of upcoming juniors.”

On the news of the sport becoming an official event at U.S. National Championship’s, athletes were ecstatic. Armstrong noted, “I thought I was excited when women’s Ski Jumping was added to the Olympic program, but the progress women’s Nordic Combined has made over the last few years adds a whole new level of excitement for me. I have been training for Nordic Combined since I was ten years old, but have mostly had to compete in Ski Jumping and Cross Country racing as separate sports. I’m just in awe that the sport has come this far; I look forward to jumping and racing with US girls at Nationals!”

Moats shared her long awaited enthusiasm and desire to help lead saying, “For me, the addition of Women’s Nordic Combined to Nationals is proof that if you do what you love with heart, people will notice, and support it. I have always done Nordic Combined but never been able to compete internationally or nationally. I’m so honored to have the USA Nordic community’s support. It will be a dream come true to help develop Women’s Nordic Combined and compete in it.”

USA Nordic Honored at Annual USSA Awards Ceremony

PARK CITY, UT – USA Nordic Sport was honored to be presented with the Russell Wilder Award in recognition of service to youth at the recent USSA annual awards ceremony held in Park City, UT. It was the highlight of the night at an event that included recognition for many individuals and organizations in the Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined community.

USA Nordic Sport is a non-profit that is focused on the growth and development of the disciplines of Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined in the US. From humble but ambitious beginnings, USA Nordic Sport has grown into the primary force driving and directing Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined throughout the country. The award reflects a renewed effort, especially at the club level, to increase the growth of the nordic sports.

“I am really proud to lead an organization that has taken sports like Nordic Combined and Ski Jumping that were struggling nationally at the youth level to recruit and retain athletes and, over the past nearly decade, have turned everything around, doubling youth participation in programs and engaging our clubs and communities in a way that makes kids and parents feel part of something bigger,” said Executive Director Bill Demong. “It’s an honor for all of us to be recognized by US Ski and Snowboard for our hard work and efforts to develop opportunities for youth in ski jumping sports by receiving the Russell Wilder Award.”

But the award represents more than just a win for USA Nordic. The recognition for service to youth is really recognition of the effort being put in at the club level and is an honor that can be shared by athletes, coaches, and parents alike.

“It is an honor for USA Nordic to be recognized for all the work that so many great people have been doing the last few years to promote and grow the sports of Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined,” observed Jed Hinkley, Sport Development Director at USA Nordic. “There is lot of positive energy at the club level and we have such a great community, which is why the future is looking bright.”

USA Nordic, which is the latest iteration of a project that has been ongoing for nearly a decade, owes its recent successes to years of groundwork laid by some of the original founders of the organization, Jim Holland and Alan Johnson. Holland and Johnson were among the initial supporters of Project X, which began with the vision of funding a ski jumping national team. Over the years, the organization has grown to include multiple teams for both disciplines, as well as coaches and support staff. However, even though the sports have seen a positive trend over the past several years at the national level, there remains a sense of urgency and focus on the club level that has really driven the direction of USA Nordic.

Holland’s response to the award reiterated the shift in focus towards youth, and the growth that USA Nordic has undergone to become an all encompassing organization: “The Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined community has really come together over the past several years to grow the sports and to create unique opportunities for kids. It’s great to see that being recognized and on a personal level, I have to say it’s been really fun and rewarding to pay it forward and to help kids build character, confidence and courage.”

“It’s very humbling for USANS to receive such a high honor and recognition from the USSA our governing body,” added Alan Johnson. “It is also a vote of confidence that we are on-track and will continue to strive for success in the direction we have chosen.”

While the Russell Wilder Award certainly represented a proud moment for USA Nordic, it was only one of a slew of awards handed out to ambassadors of the nordic sports. Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club (SSWSC) was honored to be recognized as the Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined USSA Club of the Year.

“The SSWSC SJ/NC family is excited and honored to receive this award. It’s a true testament to a group of dedicated and hard working administrators, coaches, parents and athletes, all working together and committed to our mission of ‘creating champions on and off the mountain,’” said SSWSC Program Director Todd Wilson. “Two years ago we made a shift in focus from post-grad programming and high end events to youth development, coaches’ education, and recruiting new members. Our numbers grew by 20% last year and being recognized nationally by this award gives us confidence that we made the right adjustment and are headed in the right direction.”

Wilson’s sentiments about the shift in focus towards youth development echo those of the leadership at USA Nordic.

And, of course, while many awards were given out to the organizations, it wouldn’t be right if a few athletes didn’t get to take home some hardware as well. Kevin Bickner was recognized as the USSA Ski Jumping Athlete of the Year and Stephen Schumann took home the title of USSA Nordic Combined Athlete of the Year.

Even after coming off his best season, which included setting the new American Distance Record at 244.5 meters, Kevin was eager to point out the successes of his teammates: “We’ve had several guys fly over 200 meters: Casey Larson, Mike Glasder, and Will Rhoads have all gotten personal bests.”

Schumann, on the other hand, recognized a few different teammates: “I want to say thanks to my parents, especially for driving me up the canyon from Salt Lake every day for 10 years. Pretty impressive.”

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