Just a few days after competing in the Springer Tournee and National Championships in Park City, Utah, most of the USA Nordic athletes headed over to Europe in order to continue summer training and compete in some competitions. For the ski jumping team, this meant immediately heading to Ljubno, Slovenia in order to compete in two FIS Cup competitions. After spending the entire spring and summer in America, the ski jumping team was excited to see where they stood amongst their European peers. Well after this weekend, it seems they are in very good standing.
Though there were many bright moments this weekend for USA Nordic, Casey Larson (Barrington, Ill) absolutely stole the show though. Larson jumped onto the podium both days of competition- proving his jumping is on a very high level currently.
Not only did Larson jump onto the podium two days in a row, but he did so against a field of 104 jumpers. “Being in a competition with 104 competitors, you know it’s going to be a very tight competition. I was feeling good with the hill and having a lot of fun so the podiums were just a nice addition,” says Larson.
While on the podium, Larson sported the dreaded socks and sandals look both days. When asked about this, he replies, “I tossed them on and got on the podium Saturday without batting an eye. But then I realized Europe has yet to be introduced to the beauty that is socks and Tevas so I am glad I was the guy who did so.” If this is a new podium ritual for Larson, we hope to see plenty of socks and sandals in the future.
Larson’s podium on the first day lit a fire beneath Decker Dean (Steamboat Springs, CO) who finished 19th on day one. Dean came on strong in day two jumping to 6th place, just a few points behind Larson. “Seeing Casey snag third place really motivated me and gave me confidence. I know I’m jumping close to his level, so if I showed good jumps I knew I would be right in the mix,” says Dean. Before Sunday, Dean’s best result in FIS Cup competition was 15th place in a far less attended event. While looking back on how far he’s come in a year, Dean says, “Beating almost 100 kids was really cool, last summer I wouldn’t have even been in contention here. Jan, Balki, and Bine have really brought me to a good level.”
The highlights didn’t just include Larson and Dean though. Patrick Gasienica finished 31st and 25th while many other young Americans competed in their first-ever FIS Cup competition. Men’s ski jumping coach Jan Druzina was really happy with what he saw, especially on Sunday. “Sunday’s competition was great for our team. It was not just about the results we achieved. Every athlete showed their best, including the younger ones. For some, it was the first FIS cup in their career. It’s important that younger and talented athletes have the ability to learn from our experienced athletes.” Going forwards, Druzina hopes to see this continued growth led by great the veterans of the team.
The women’s ski jumping team also notched great results in Ljubno while jumping in one of the largest fields to date for women’s FIS Cup. Annika Belshaw (Steamboat Springs, CO) and Paige Jones (Park City, UT) shared the best finish of the weekend at 19th. Belshaw led the team on day one while Jones did so on day two. Anna Hoffman (Madison, WI) and Logan Sankey (Steamboat Springs, CO) jumped inside the top 30 both days, while athletes such as Sam Macuga (Park City, UT) and Cara Larson (Barrington, Ill) were just outside the top 30. This displays the increasing depth within the young women’s ski jumping team.
In reference to the size of the women’s ski jumping field in Ljubno, Women’s National Team Director Blake Hughes says, “It’s great to see the sport continue to grow and develop.” Hughes was content with his athlete’s results and mentioned the importance of gauging progress against their peers- something the women’s ski jumping team hasn’t been able to do since competing in Europe last winter. Coach Hughes says, “They made improvements during the competitions, which is not always an easy task.”
The men’s ski jumping team now heads to Poland for a big training camp with the entire team. The best few jumpers will compete in the Wisla Continental Cup. After Wisla, the team will head to Zakopane to focus on the team event at Summer Grand Prix. According to coach Druzina, “Our goal this season is to compete in more team events, to gain experience and to slowly prepare younger guys for the big step needed to enter World Cup and to be competitive there.”
The women’s ski jumping team is also now conducting a training camp in Poland. They just arrived in Szycrzk, where they will be competing in a Continental Cup over the weekend.
Full Results from Ljubno below: