By Adam Loomis, USA Nordic Combined Team Member
Summer competitions ended way back in early September for the USA Nordic Combined Team, after the fast and furious 8-day Summer Grand Prix tour. Since then, no one has rested on their laurels; we’ve been busy putting in the work to make this winter a success.
This summer, we decided to spend much more time overseas, where we could train amongst other athletes and on many of the venues that we compete at in the wintertime. We rented an apartment in Planica, Slovenia, which we made our home-base for a month and a half.
From our home in Planica, we lived as total athletes: training twice a-day, cooking nutritious meals for ourselves and enjoying the abundant opportunities for training nearby. At the complex in Planica, just up the road from our apartment, we jumped on a HS105m and HS138m. The venue also has a hilly and technical 2km rollerski loop, which we skied countless times in intervals and two test competitions. Next to the track, we also got on snow every week at the newly built indoor ski tunnel. This was an awesome opportunity to get snow training in during the summer – something that we usually can’t do until it snows in November in Park City. Rollerskiing is pretty close, but there’s no way to replicate the real deal without actually being on snow.
Team members Ben Berend, Jasper Good and I, along with juniors Grant Andrews and Koby Vargas, have been in Europe since the Summer Grand Prix. Some of the team has been back in the states, but we all reunited for the final week of prep training. Stephen Schumann and Ben Loomis went back to Park City to sneak in a little school. Both of them are still in high school at the Winter Sports School. (Ben will be graduating at the end of the school year in November. Stephen (16), will be off for the winter, until starting his Senior year next April.)
Bryan Fletcher also spent most of the summer at home – for a good reason – the birth of his first daughter with his wife Nikki! Ellery Fletcher was born happy and healthy on August 29. Taylor also flew home for a couple weeks after SGP to visit his new niece.
From Planica, we were able to take a few trips to other venues. After Taylor came back over, we headed to Ramsau, Austria in late September. It was great to practice on this hill, where we have a World Cup every December. We also jumped on the large hill in nearby Bischofschofen, and Grant Andrews and Ben Berend both set personal records in one morning! Beckett Ledger, a promising junior from Lake Placid, was also with us for this time. He missed out on the junior camp in August due to a broken toe, but was able to train with us for two weeks – and jump on 5 different hills in this time!
We finished off the training block with a great jumping camp in Oberstdorf, Germany, with the entire team fully united for the first time since August. Bryan, our experienced veteran, flew over to join us, and on the jump hill we could tell that he’s been working just as hard as the rest of us!
We all traveled back home on Wednesday. Now the countdown for winter begins! Bryan, Taylor and Ben Berend will start the season at the World Cup in Ruka, Finland on November 24th. In December, the entire team will be competing internationally, either in Klingenthal, Germany at the Continental Cup or at the World Cup in Ramsau.
Before you go, here’s a few pictures and videos from our training.
Will Rhoads, USA Ski Jumping’s Large Hill and Normal Hill National Champion, provides an update for the community.
The second half of the summer season is always interesting as winter nears, the competition and training levels go higher and higher. Our team did a great job keeping up with this pace and continued to produce quality results from August through October. The team has been all over the world in the past few months, mixing training with competition in a variety of places.
August seemed to be Kevin’s month as he stayed hot with a great weekend in Japan. He was leading the Grand Prix after the first round, and held on to a career best 7th place! He produced three top-16 results in the month at the sports highest level.
(See Kevin’s athlete page here for a video of him soaring in training in Predazzo).
September was a little busier for most of the team. We hit the road from our usual training spot in Slovenia to spend a few days training in Predazzo, Italy. We took advantage of jumping a different hill with calm conditions and I think it was very beneficial for everyone. I made some of my first jumps after injury in Italy, after over a month of being sidelined by a wrist surgery. From Predazzo we drove over the Alps to Stamms, Austria for a Continental Cup. The team looked very strong, in a high level event that featured the Austrian A-Team competing with home field advantage. Mackenzie wowed everyone with a 3rd place podium finish on Saturday and 5th on Sunday. Kevin was solid coming in 17th and 15th, and I was 25th and 11th on the weekend. With just a week of jumping since my surgery, I was pretty satisfied with my return to competition. Mike Glasder also produced some quality Continental Cup finishes in Lillehammer and Wisla in September, as did our other friend from Canada, Josh Maurer. We spent the rest of the month training back in Slovenia in preparation for the last few events of the summer.
In early October Mackenzie, Mike and I all traveled to Klingenthal, Germany for a triple-header weekend with two Continental Cups followed by the Grand Prix finale. Mac continued his successful summer with a 5th and 7th place in the Continental Cup, followed up by an astounding 6th place in a World Cup-level Grand Prix finale! He is in store for a huge winter in my opinion. I had probably the best weekend of my career in Klingenthal placing 19th and 5th in the Continental Cups, as well as scoring my first Grand Prix points placing 24th. Kevin Bickner also joined us in Klingenthal on Sunday, as he was jumping in Hinzenbach, Austria the day before in a Grand Prix. He was strong again coming in 27th in Hinzenbach and narrowly missed the cut in Klingenthal at 31st. I think the weekend was really successful for the team as a whole, as we reinforced the fact that we are now competitive with the best jumpers in the world.
The Americans then said goodbye to our Canadian pals and hopped on a plane back to the U.S., headed to Lake Placid for U.S. Nationals on the small hill. Lake Placid was a little unpredictable with some tricky wind. This was complicated by the fact that we had so many guys capable of over-jumping the hill. I was very happy to jump the way that I did on Sunday and was able to walk away with another National Title! The event was indicative of our progress as we were all the way down at gate 2, still putting jumps down way past 100 meters! We had a repeat of the podium of the Large Hill Championships earlier this summer with Kevin in second, and Casey moving up to third after a great second round jump. Casey has maybe improved the most this summer, even though he has not been able to train with us lately because he has to finish up high school! I think he will be turning some heads once he graduates this December.
Overall, the summer has been really productive in my opinion. I think almost everyone is jumping much better now than they were a year ago and it showed with numerous career bests this summer. Now, we’ll put in the final preparation for the winter. We will meet in Slovenia at the beginning of November. The first World Cup event is November 24th in Ruka, Finland.
By: Will Rhoads, USA Ski Jumping
Since this is the first update of the summer for me, we will start from the beginning of the summer season. Our season started in Park City back in June. Despite having a smaller team than in years past, we all knew this was a very motivated and talented group capable of achieving a lot in the upcoming years. This was apparent from the beginning of July when Mackenzie and Kevin were both in the Top-6 of an elite Continental Cup field in Kranj, Slovenia. After their awesome results, they brought a lot of positive momentum back to Park City for Springer Tournee at the end of July. The Springer Tournee competitions on both the K90 and K120 were at the highest level that I can remember in a domestic event. Everyone seemed to be raising the bar every day in training, and we knew that both of the competitions would take very good jumps to come out on top. Mackenzie took the win on the small hill, while I was able to win the following day on the K120. Both competitions were very exciting, with two jumps past 100 meters on the K90, and six jumps past 130 meters on the K120! Kevin and Mackenzie continued their hot-streaks the following weekend in a Grand Prix in Switzerland, placing 8th and 14th, respectively. The 8th place was a career best for Kevin at a World Cup level competition! Now they are both on their way to Japan for another stop in the Grand Prix this weekend.
The junior team also recently had a FIS Cup and Continental Cup double header in Kuopio, Finland. This means that they had four competitions over the course of four days on what is always a very difficult jump hill. Casey Larson led the way for our team with some nice results, including his first career Continental Cup points at only 17 years old! Now, some of that team will be heading back to Slovenia to join Mike Glasder for more training and Continental Cups.
As for me, I have been dealing with a very tricky broken bone in my left wrist since the last week in June. I was able to train and compete with a splint for sometime, however I learned in Mid-August that the healing was not going as planned and I had to undergo surgery to properly repair it. I have not been able to head back to Europe and compete as quickly as I would have liked to. A test of my patience for sure, however I am confident that I will be back on the hill soon.
I am planning on going back over to Slovenia at the beginning of September to meet up with the team and pick up where I left off. When permitted to jump, I have been pleased with my progress and (few) results so far this summer. Winning my second National Championship was a dream come true; I felt very satisfied walking away with the win knowing how difficult the event was. Overall, I am really happy with the progress everyone is making on the team. I’m looking forward to what the last six weeks of summer competition have in store and what we can do in preparation for a successful winter season!
By: Adam Loomis, Nordic Combined Team Member
This spring, USASN’s Nordic Combined Team received the news of hiring a new coach, Nik Huber. We also named two new juniors: Ben Loomis and Stephen Schumann. This is the most additions we’ve made in the four years that I’ve been on the team. It’s really exciting to have new blood flowing through our team. Here’s an introduction to the newcomers.
Nik is coming off six years of coaching the Norwegian Nordic Combined Team, where he led them to two golds, one silver and a bronze medal at the Sochi Olympic Games. Over the last couple years, we’ve seen some of Norway’s strongest cross country skiers improve their jumping in a remarkable style. Nik seems like a perfect fit to help us do the same. Nik had a successful career as a World Cup ski jumper for Austria before beginning his time as coach. He helped the Austrian team win multiple Four Hills Tournees and World Championships with the likes of Wolfgang Loitzl and Andreas Kofler. Back in 2010, his switch into the world of Nordic Combined was surely an initial shock, but he later told FIS that he’s “never regretted one minute of working in Nordic Combined.”
Nonetheless, there’s really no way to know how well he would mesh with our team until we got down to business together. It quickly became evident that beyond his expertise, Nik brings an abundance of enthusiasm, passion and positivity. Our team thrives on positive energy, and his confidence enabled us to quickly build up trust in him. On the hill, Nik is constructive, and off the hill, he is using his experience to help us develop new programs to build strength, speed and power.
Perhaps most importantly, Nik’s philosophies are right in line with our other jumping coach’s, Martin Bayer. In the winter, Martin will spend much of his time traveling to Continental Cups and World Junior Championships, while Nik will be on World Cup. It will be a smooth transition for athletes bouncing between circuits and coaches. With Martin Bayer living primarily in Slovenia, and Nik’s home not too far away in Tauplitz, Austria, you might wonder how it will work with having two coaches based in Europe. No need to worry, they’ve already made the trip over to coach us in the US twice, but from here on out we’ll be the ones traveling overseas more than them.
Stephen Schumann (Park City, UT) and Ben Loomis (Eau Claire, WI) also come to the team with plenty to offer. Both are still in high school at Park City’s Winter Sports School and already have impressive résumés. Last winter, Stephen scored Continental Cup points on three consecutive days and made the World Junior Championship Team, all while still too young to drive. Ben, age 18, brought home a historic silver medal from the 2016 Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway and won the USSA Nordic Combined Skier of the Year Award.
But, just like Nik and the rest of the team, these kids can’t bring their medals and awards to training. They bring themselves, their enthusiasm, personality, skills, and (only occasional) tells of their youth. It’s fun to have new guys as a part of the group. We’ve shown time-and-time again that we feed off pushing each other as one unit. These two are already nipping at our heels, to say the least! Even the Fletchers have to watch out when either of them has a good day. Look for more strong results to come from our juniors, especially with World Junior Championships being held on our home court in Park City this upcoming winter.