(Photo Credit: FIS)
Will Rhoads led the charge this weekend for USA Nordic posting a career best 21st place as well as back to back top 30 finishes. With USA Nordic athletes competing in Norway and Russia as well as kicking off the season here at home, there was plenty of action to watch.
Saturday night proved to be the highlight of the weekend. Will Rhoads, who had never scored a World Cup point, got more than a few when he turned in a career performance in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. After jumping to 29th place in the first round, Rhoads found himself on new ground.
“After the first round I was happy but thinking I could still move up,” said Rhoads, and move up he did.
After jumping 126 meters in the first round, Rhoads cleared his head and flew 131 meters, moving him up eight positions and finishing 21st. Rhoads result actually tied with Kevin Bickner (21st, Sapporo, Japan 2017) the best result by any US men’s Ski Jumper (not including Ski Flying results) since 2003.
“It’s good to see Will do it today,” said Head Coach Bine Norcic. “It was a good first jump, the second, actually, was not as good, but overall it was positive and we just need to continue on.”
Both Kevin Bickner and Michael Glasder were just outside of qualifying Saturday, but Norcic was remained positive about what he is seeing. “The jumps we are not so far away, we just need to take those into competition. Will did it today so which is good for the whole team to moving on into the season.”
Sunday evening in Russia proved to be an improvement on the day. Rhoads, fresh off his career day, had another personal best when he jumped to 16th position in the first round in Nizhyn Tagil.
“My first jump was really good,” said Will. “Unfortunately my second jump wasn’t so good combined with a little bad luck and I fell back to 29th. Overall, I’m satisfied with the weekend and looking to build off of it moving forward!”
Coach Norcic agreed. “Will had a good first jump. In the second round he was a bit unlucky, but still with a normal jump he could stay in the top 20.” But, Norcic was quick to point out that it was Will’s first time in that kind of position, adding, “it’s good education for the future.”
(Photo Credit: FIS)
Friday marked the first day of competition for the women in the 2017/2018 winter season. Tara Geraghty-Moats, Sarah Hendrickson, Nita Englund, Nina Lussi, and Abby Ringquist have all made the trip to Europe for the first period of World Cup Action.
Englund was the top American of the day, finishing in 30th place and earning her first World Cup points of the season. Ringquist and Lussi finished just outside of the top 30, with Ringquist placing 33rd and Lussi in 36th. During Thursday’s competition, Geraghty-Moats had a slight equipment issue that led to a disqualification and Sarah Hendrickson was also unable to qualify.
“I think for the first comp it was good,” said Englund. “I may have had a little bit of apprehension going into it, and it really helped me to have that first competition go solid.”
Head Coach Igor Cuznar was optimistic after the first competition, though he said he still expects to see more out of these strong women in the coming winter saying, “when we show them how we can jump, we will see a difference in results.”
Next up on Saturday was another women’s individual competition on the HS98. Englund and Ringquist were the top American’s qualifying in 32nd and 33rd, respectively. Ringquist’s first jump was just short of the cut-off and she finished 32nd, less than two points out of qualifying. Englund was only a few points behind her teammate, finishing 34th.
While the weekend was not what the women were expecting or hoping for, it was only the first weekend of a long season. As Coach Cuznar said, “we move on and stay positive.”
(Photo Credit: Romina Eggert; Berkutschi)
The Nordic Combined team kicked off the weekend on Saturday with a 4x5k team event in Lillehammer, Norway. The four man team was comprised of Taylor Fletcher, Bryan Fletcher, Ben Berend, and Jasper Good, who had joined the team in Europe earlier this week.
After jumping to 10th place, the team fought hard on the course and finished in ninth, just missing catching 8th place in a come from behind sprint. Though not a podium finish, Head Coach Martin Bayer still saw some positives.
“Overall, I see good chemistry,” said Bayer. “These boys support each other.”
Taylor Fletcher lit up the cross country course with the fastest time of the day. Brother Bryan wasn’t far behind, posting the fifth fastest time of the day. Bayer said that he was happy with the performance of all four skiers on the course, noting that Jasper and Ben have made great improvements in their racing tactics and the improvements are carrying over to the results.
An early morning Sunday on Sunday meant changing wind conditions that led to multiple delays in qualification, and did not seem to help the American skiers. Jasper Good was the top American, jumping within a point of qualifying in 41st, followed by Bryan Fletcher, Ben Berend, and Taylor Fletcher. Coach Bayer said he was not looking for excuses, but that the results didn’t really speak to the performance of the team.
(Photo Credit: Romina Eggert)
Here at home we kicked off the season with Winter Start in Steamboat Springs, CO with the first US Cup and World Junior qualifier of the season. In the U20 division, Ben Loomis of USA Nordic was the top men’s skier, flying 95.5 meters and 95 meters. Stephen Schumann (USANS) came in second followed by Andrew Urlaub (CEN) in third. AJ Brown was the top skier in the men’s open division, with jumps of 94 meters and 92 meters. Grant Andrews (USANS) was second and Nathaniel Mah (Canada) took third. Annika Belshaw of SSWSC was the top woman of the day on the HS100, coming in ahead of Logan Sankey (PCSS) in second and Cara Larson (CEN) in third.
In the Nordic Combined cross country race, Loomis led from start to finish. Schumann and Andrews switched places with Schumann finishing second and Andrews getting himself a podium for an early birthday present (happy birthday Grant!).
Next up for all the teams will be at least a few days of rest. Norcic and the Men’s Jumping team are already back in Planica, Slovenia for a few days of light training. They will be heading to Titisee-Neustadt, Germany later this week for qualification on Friday, followed by a team event on Friday and an individual event on Saturday. The Women’s Jumping team is on their way to Planica as well. They will have a nine day break from competition before they travel to Hinterzarten, Germany for one team event and one individual event, with qualification beginning on Friday, December 15. And the Nordic Combined team will arrive back in the US this week as there is a break from competition this weekend for the Nordic Combined World Cup.