Another weekend of ski jumping is in the books and our USA Nordic athletes excelled. The competition took place in Lillehammer, Norway and the ski jumping team continued its string of impressive summer results.
After taking a season off from competition, Sarah Hendrickson (Park City, UT) returned to the international ski jumping scene in Lillehammer. Before the competitions began though, Hendrickson gave back to the sport by coaching an international women’s ski jumping camp consisting of seven nations and 30 junior women ski jumpers.
Hendrickson helped these athletes through training sessions and taught the young jumpers what she has learned about preventing knee injuries. “This camp was awesome and the highlight for me was all the energy that these young women bring to training every day,” says Hendrickson.
The women’s ski jumping team set the tone in Saturday’s competition when all four athletes jumped into the top 30. Leading the charge for the women’s team was a new name on the results list but not a new name to most- Sarah Hendrickson. Hendrickson battled the nerves and jumped to an impressive sixth-place finish in the largest ever women’s Continental Cup, boasting 55 competitors. “I was shocked at how nervous I was,” laughs Hendrickson.
The scary part for her fellow competitors, Hendrickson was dissatisfied with her competition jumps saying, “My jumps were definitely not super good.” This is to be expected as she reintroduces herself back into the competitive setting, though with a sixth-place she is doing something right.
Following closely behind Hendrickson for her best international result of the summer was Nina Lussi (Lake Placid, N.Y.) who jumped to 15th place. Lussi mentions her frustrations this summer, “Towards the end of the summer I was not seeing the progress in areas I wanted to off the hill in terms of strength and speed. On the hill, I wasn’t jumping well either so that was tough to deal with.”
Lussi took this recent frustration and channeled it towards reevaluating and making some changes. “Nina has been working hard and it’s great to see her hard work pay off with a solid result,” says women’s team director Blake Hughes. Lussi looks forward to continuing this positive trend next weekend in Stams, Austria.
Annika Belshaw (Steamboat Springs, CO) arrived in Lillehammer but without her ski jumping equipment. This did not slow the 17-year-old down as she competed on borrowed equipment and flew to 24th place, an impressive feat, especially considering the circumstances!
Anna Hoffmann (Madison, WI) snuck into the top 30 on Saturday jumping to 30th place. Hoffman continues her impressive summer season that has seen her rise from a FIS level jumper to a World Cup level jumper. Hendrickson has certainly noticed the rise of young athletes like Belshaw and Hoffman saying, “This fast growth of younger athletes is much needed as we build a strong team for the future.”
On the men’s side, Casey Larson (Barrington, Ill) led the way on Saturday jumping to 15th place with teammate Kevin Bickner (Wauconda, Ill) right behind him in 19th place. Bickner is usually the leader on the men’s team so it was encouraging to see Larson out front. “I was very excited to be able to get a top 15 finish in Lillehammer but Sunday was a sharp reminder on what I need to work on moving forward, consistency,” says Larson.
On Sunday Bickner sat in 21st place after the first round, a good position but far behind the leaders. On his second-round jump, Bickner outjumped the whole field and won the round, catapulting himself into the top ten. “Having the furthest jump of the round by several meters definitely felt good and kept my confidence high,” says Bickner
Bickner reflects on his summer season saying, “After a lot of work this summer, I feel like I’m jumping at a high level and for sure more consistently than at this same time last year.” Now he looks to keep that momentum going with his training at home while preparing for the upcoming winter season.
Unfortunately, the women’s team didn’t get the opportunity to compete on Sunday after the men. The windy conditions persisted and though they tried, the competition was canceled in the end. “We were looking forward to Sunday but unfortunately the wind was not cooperating and the jury had to eventually cancel the event,” says coach Hughes.
Luckily, the men’s and women’s team have two more competition opportunities this weekend in Stams, Austria. These will be the final international competitions of the summer for most of our athletes. Then their eyes will look towards final preparations before winter.