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!