New Year’s Wrap Up

(Photo Credit – Ben Pieper Photography: Point Productions, LLC)

Happy New Year from USA Nordic!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here at our home base in Park City, UT. As all of you know, this past weekend was the US Olympic Team Trials for Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined and we are happy to say that, overall, it was a very successful weekend.

In total, three athletes were named to the 2018 Olympic team over the weekend. Bryan Fletcher took the win on Saturday in the Nordic Combined event, while Michael Glasder and Sarah Hendrickson each won their respective competitions on Sunday. All three athletes are now guaranteed a spot for the upcoming Olympics in PyeongChang.

On Saturday, a total of nine athletes took part in the one day, winner-take-all event. Ben Loomis continued his great start to the season, winning the jumping portion of the competition with a jump of 92.5 meters and giving himself a 56 second lead over second place, which was secured by his older brother, Adam Loomis. Adam had a strong day on the hill, jumping 89.5 meters. And Ben Berend rounded out the top three going into the race, starting 1:19 behind the leader, Bryan Fletcher.

Overcast skies and warmer temperatures, paired with a tough cross country course, set the scene for a dogfight and the race did not disappoint. Ben Loomis skied the first few laps by himself, carefully pacing himself in order to save a little for the fight he expected to come. As the race went on, Bryan and younger brother Taylor both began working their way through the field, trying to make up the time they had lost in the jumping.

By the third lap, Bryan and Adam were skiing together, chasing Ben, while running from Taylor. After four laps, Bryan, Ben L., and Adam were skiing together, each one of them trying to set themselves up for the win. Bryan made his move at the bottom of the long hill.

“Both Ben and Adam can sprint really well,” said Bryan. “I decided I had to make my move as far out as I could, which was the bottom of the hill, and just try to climb my way to the win.”

The move worked; one and a half kilometers from the finish, Bryan began to pull away. It was a hard fight and neither Loomis was willing to concede, giving chase all the way to the end. Despite a great effort by both the Loomis brothers, Fletcher’s move was too strong. He pulled away and was able to maintain enough of a lead to let out a roar as he crossed the finish line. Adam Loomis finished close behind in second and Ben Loomis completed the podium in third.

“Everyone had a good strategy in the race today, especially the top three guys,” said Head Coach Martin Bayer. “Bryan is obviously skiing strong and having a good season, but it was a great day for all the guys on the podium, hands down.”

(Photo Credit – Ben Pieper Photography: Point Productions, LLC)

On Sunday, a crowd of over 7,000 spectators made their way up the hill to the former Olympic venue in order to cheer on the nine women and six men who were competing. Clear blue skies and crisp air, along with the energy from the crowd, combined for an event as exciting as any in the past four years.

First up were the men. Calm air and sunshine meant that conditions could not be more fair. Michael Glasder led after the first round with a jump of 98.5 meters. Teammate Kevin Bickner tied Glasder in distance in the first round, but Glasder had a slight edge of 1.5 points due to style. Meanwhile, local skier Will Rhoads kept himself in the hunt with a jump of 95.5 meters, which left him less than six points from the lead.

The second round was even tighter than the first. Of the top three, Kevin was the first to go. His jump of 100 meters was the longest of the day and sent the pressure right back up to the top.

“I actually heard Kevin’s distance all the way at the top, even above the roar of the crowd,” said Glasder. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m really going to have to do something special here,’ so I just tried to calm my nerves and focus on what I needed to do.”

Glasder’s second jump was 98 meters. It was a few meters short of his teammate, but his style points were high enough to take the lead over Bickner and the win. Rhoads was the lone man at the top. His second jump of 97 meters was an improvement, but not enough to overtake his teammate. Glasder watched the screen from the bottom as he saw his name remain in the top spot and he had officially become an Olympian. Kevin Bickner was only 1.5 points behind in second, and Rhoads finished the day in third.

“Conditions were perfect,” said USA Nordic Team Director and Coach Clint Jones. “Overall as a team, the guys all stepped up and performed better than we could’ve asked.”

“I’m really excited for Mike,” added Jones. “He’s been working towards this for a long time and it’s great to see him win.”

(Photo Credit – Ben Pieper Photography: Point Productions, LLC)

For the grand finale, all eyes were on our women’s team. A total of nine women took to the top of the K90, hoping to earn the coveted first Olympic spot. With so much on the line, it was really anybody’s day to win. Of all the competitions, the women’s was probably the most unpredictable, which made it the perfect end to such an exciting weekend.

Local skier Sarah Hendrickson led after the first round with a jump of 97.5 meters. Teammate and fellow Park City local Abby Ringquist had a jump of 96 meters, finding herself just a few points behind Sarah after the first round. And Nina Lussi, who has been steadily improving all winter, was just a half point behind Abby with a jump of 98.5 meters, the farthest jump of the day for the women.

Of the top three, Nina was the first to go in the second round. Lussi had a great jump, flying 97 meters, but an unfortunate crash when she landed took her out of contention and will keep her out for the rest of the season. Lussi was hoping to make her first Olympic team and our hearts are with her as she begins her road to recovery.

To read an update on Nina Lussi click Here

Following Lussi, there were just two skiers left. Ringquist was the first to go. Shaking any nerves that come from watching a friend and teammate crash, Abby had another solid jump of 91.5 meters, after moving down a start gate, and found herself at the top of the leaderboard with one skier left.

Sarah Hendrickson, who had to sit out the Olympic Trials four years ago as she recovered from her own knee injury, was alone at the top. She calmed her nerves, slid onto the bar, and, ever the professional, threw down another great jump. Flying 93.5 meters, also from a gate lower, Hendrickson let out a scream in the stopping area while, seconds later, the announcement from former Olympian Anders Johnson made her win official. Ringquist ended the day in second, and Nita Englund continued her solid start to the winter finishing in third.

“Obviously I’m extremely happy for Sarah,” said USA Nordic Head Women’s Coach Alan Alborn. “She had to stand four years ago [due to a knee injury suffered in training in September of 2013], and she went through so much to come back. Her win today was really inspiring to me as a coach.”

“Honestly, I was surprised how close it was,” said Alborn. “All of the athletes really stepped up today. It’s unusual to see athletes competing at a higher level than training; it was really great to see them all execute.”

(Photo Credit – Ben Pieper Photography: Point Productions, LLC)

Next, all of our USA Nordic athletes will be heading back to Europe or to Japan at some point over the next two weeks. The men’s Ski Jumping team will meet back up with the World Cup circuit immediately, with competitions in Innsbruck, AUT, and Bischofshofen, AUT, on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. A lack of snow has led to cancellations for the Nordic Combined World Cup, as well as the Women’s World Cup, this weekend. However, both circuits will be back in action next weekend, with the NC team in Val di Fiemme, ITA, and the women’s SJ team going to Japan for competitions in Sapporo and Zao. In the meantime, the women’s team will remain in the US to train. The men’s NC team will split up, with some athletes staying home for an extra week of training, while others compete this weekend in three competitions in Klingenthal, GER.

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