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Kevin Bickner stays focused while competing in Grand Prix in Hakuba, Japan.

By: Clint Jones, Sport Director

As we pass the halfway-mark of our summer training and competition season, it is important to stop for a minute and take inventory of what we have accomplished to this point.  In many ways, this summer has been a breakthrough for our USA Nordic Ski Jumpers, with some fantastic results from the National Team athletes, and some confidence building performances from some of our up-and-comers.  And while we are all very pleased with what our talented young group has done so far, we need to keep in mind where we are headed and how these strong summer performances can inspire our ski jumping community to keep pushing!

So far this summer, Kevin Bickner has twice been in the top-10 of the Summer Grand Prix, and Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes (our Canadian amigo) has two top-15 finishes.  Although these individual results are something to be proud of, the real excitement for me is the fact that our younger ski jumping athletes can see that it is possible for North Americans to compete with the World’s best.  It shows that the efforts of USA Nordic and of the broader ski jumping community are starting to payoff.  We still have a lot of work to do, but there is nothing more motivating for a young athlete than to see one of their domestic heroes start to see some success.  This has been happening on the Nordic Combined side with the successes of athletes like Billy Demong, Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick, and Bryan and Taylor Fletcher.  All of our USA Nordic National Team members have a great opportunity right now to show the world what they are capable of, and give our next generation of aspiring young athlete a clear path to follow.

The next challenge is to keep the ball rolling in the right direction, and build off of the positive foundation that has been laid so far this summer.  There are still some chances for our National Team athletes to make an impact at the Grand Prix and Continental Cup levels this summer, but the real focus is to go into the winter season healthy and ready to compete.  With the World Championships in Lahti, and the Junior World Championships at home here in Park City, our athletes have some great opportunities to make their mark this year, and set a new standard for the future of our Nordic Sport community.

Kevin Bickner, pictured here in training, has been leading USA Nordic’s Ski Jumpers at Summer Grand Prix.

The Dog Days of Summer

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Jared Schumate leads Grant Andrews at US Nationals. Both athletes are currently with the rest of the Junior Team in Europe.

By: Dave Jarrett, Head Coach USA Nordic Combined

Summer training for a winter sport, it takes extra motivation to get out the door in July when the snow seems to be so far away.  The Nordic Combined team begins their annual training the first week of April. Coming into a new season most athletes and coaches are motivated to “restart” whether coming off a medal winning season or a season of frustration.  VO2 max testing, strength testing, evaluations of previous season and goal setting both individually and collectively provide motivation to begin training for the next season.

Living and training in UT, it is easy to get out the door in April and May.  There are choices of training methods and modes abound; you can ski, bike, run, to name a few and many times a combo of all of these are possible.  Skiing in the morning and cycling in the afternoon is very common.

As the temperature goes up and the months go by, we find ourselves in July with Winter seemingly so far away.  Getting out the door for rollerskiing or jumping in 90+ degree heat does not feel like January and honestly is sometimes hard to do.  Luckily the competitions in Steamboat on the 4th of July and the annual Springer Tournee in Park City provide short term motivation to keep the momentum up as does the Nordic Combined Summer Grand Prix (SGP) at the end of August.

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USANS High Performance Director “FBD” keeping it cool on the Fourth of July

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Local Wasatch Nordic skiers gathered to join the Nordic Combined Team at a recent Soldier Hollow Time Trial.

The Nordic Combined team will be on their way to Oberwiesenthal on Saturday for a short training camp before SGP begins with competitions in Oberwiesenthal, GER; Villach, AUT; and Obertsdorf, GER.  We will join our juniors who have been in Europe with Coach Martin Bayer since the Springer Tournee for the beginning of our camp and the conclusion of their trip.  We will also have three youth athletes, boys and girls, competing in Youth Cup competitions in Obertsdorf which occurs concurrently with the Nordic Combined SGP.  Team US NoCo will be well represented in Obertsdorf!

The SGP consists of five comps in seven days, including four individual events and one team sprint.  While the SGP does not count toward the overall World Cup as it does in Ski Jumping, it is still a big opportunity to get a gauge on where we are in terms of ski jumping and cross country skiing.  In the SGP, there is prize money and an overall winner is crowned.  Furthermore, it is an opportunity for our young guns to get a start.  We are looking forward to the likes of our young guns, Ben Loomis and Stephen Schumann getting to compete in the SGP against World Championships and Olympic medalists.

Once we get out of the desert heat of Utah and into Central Europe you can feel, “winter is coming” and the motivation skyrockets.  Five competitions in seven days is intense and we will see how well we have dealt with the dog days of summer.

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B. Fletcher – beating the heat and staying happy.

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Bryan Fletcher, Taylor Fletcher and Ben Berend at US Nationals. Tom Kelly/USSA photo.

Innovation – On the Right Path

By: Clint Jones, Sport Director

The dust has settled after another successful Springer Tournee week here in Park City, UT.  Events like this don’t just happen, but are rather the culmination of hours of work and planning by a huge chunk of our collective ski jumping community.  This annual event has grown and evolved so much over it’s 18 years, and with Alan Alborn in the pilot’s seat for the last 7 years or so, it has become a staple in the lives of American Ski Jumpers and Nordic Combined athletes young and old.  But, this busy week isn’t only about competitions, education seminars and BBQs.

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For the Ski Jumping National Team, Springer Tournee it is also one of the few times during our busy year that all of the athletes and staff are able to congregate and clarify the direction and goals for the coming season.  This year was no different.  The USA Nordic Sport organization continues to evolve at a staggering rate, and at the National Team level, we are pushing harder than ever to close the gap between our small team and the strongest ski jumping nations in the World.  This will only happen through outside of the box type thinking, hard work, and problem solving.  Over the last few weeks, we have been working closely with our newest staff member, Uroš “Balki” Vrhovec, to develop new competition suits for all of our USA Nordic athletes.  As the level of International competition continues to increase, equipment is more important than ever for athletes to be competitive on the World Stage.  So, over the last 10 days, Balki has been making patterns and suits from scratch to make sure our team is perfectly fit and ready to compete in the upcoming Summer Grand Prix events in Europe.  On top of a normal coaching schedule, Balki spent almost 90 hours in the sewing room with his trusty assistant Igor Cuznar at his side.  The initial feedback from the athletes and staff is that the time was not wasted and the new suits are flying well!

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Another exciting project that we are currently working on deals more with the athlete feedback, and how we can better communicate and visualize technical ideas between athletes and coaches.  Dr. Andrew Martin came to join our camp from North Carolina, and he brought some pretty fancy toys!  Using sensors attached all over an athletes body, as well as pressure sensitive insoles in the jumping boots, Dr. Martin is able to generate a 3D representation of the athletes body and balance point throughout their jump.  This can help us monitor body symmetry, weight shifts, energy transfers and other movements that we might not have been able to see with the naked eye.  This is a work in progress, but we are hopeful that it can be a useful tool for athletes to learn more about their specific jumping styles, and how they might be able to greatly improve their performance.

Now that the team has started to scatter and head off to their respective competitions abroad, we hope that the last two weeks here in Park City will serve as a positive step in their road to success.  It is always important to search for better solutions and new ways to improve.  We still have many obstacles to overcome if we hope to one day see an American Ski Jumper stand on the Olympic Podium, but it is events and busy weeks like Springer Tournee that help remind us that we are on the right path.

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