PARK CITY, Utah (July 30, 2021) – Opening day of the 2022 U.S. Ski Jumping Championships Friday (July 30) at the Utah Olympic Park produced a pair of first-time winners. Casey Larson (Barrington, Ill./Norge Ski Club) and Annika Belshaw (Steamboat Springs, Colo./Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club) each came through with the longest jump in both rounds to lead strong fields. It was the first U.S. Championship in two years and also kicked off the 2021-22 national U.S. Cup series.
The U.S. Championships attracted a field of 41 men and 19 women to the Utah Olympic Park in Park City. The event is sponsored by the Utah Office of Tourism and the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and produced by Park City Ski & Snowboard and the Utah Olympic Park, along with USA Nordic.
Larson opened the first round with a towering 101.5m ride – longest of the day – to put him into a four-point lead over teammate Andrew Urlaub (Eau Claire, Wis./Flying Eagles Ski Club). Decker Dean (Steamboat Springs, Colo./Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club) was close behind in third. In the final round, Kevin Bickner (Wauconda, Ill./Norge Ski Club), who was standing in fourth, knocked on the door with a 92.5m ride but it wasn’t enough. It was Bickner’s first competition back after taking a break from competition during the pandemic season. Dean and Urlaub countered with 90.5m jumps before Larson closed the door soaring 96.5 to clinch his first U.S. Championships gold.
In the women’s tournament, Belshaw led off the opening round with a strong 90.0m jump, 6.5 points ahead of Annika Malacinski (Steamboat Springs, Colo./Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club) who jumped 88.5m. Anna Hoffmann (Madison, Wis./Blackhawk Ski Club) was just a half point behind in third with an 86.5m jump. In the second round, three-time U.S. ski jumping champion Nina Lussi (Lake Placid, N.Y./New York Ski Education Foundation) had the long jump of the round at 87.5 to leapfrog from fourth up to silver as Malacinski dropped to fifth. Logan Sankey (Steamboat Springs, Colo./Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club) also came from behind to move up from fifth into a tie for third with Hoffmann as Belshaw sealed the victory with a strong 86.5m closing jump.
“It feels good,” said Belshaw. “I wasn’t really sure. I knew there were people who had the potential to have some good jumps. It was a good competition. It’s nice to win here but I have a lot of work to do moving into the Olympic season.”
“My teammates always give me a good run – Decker, Andy, Kevin. I definitely wasn’t confident, I had some nervous butterflies up there. It definitely doesn’t hurt in ski jumping
It was a crazy weather day at the Olympic ski jumping complex, enhanced by an early 7:00 a.m. start. Overnight thunderstorms created swirling cloud banks with most of the trial round conducted in heavy fog, before it cleared to blue skies.
Both Belshaw and Larson chalked up the fog to just another day on the hill. “The inversion up here in Park City was interesting to see,” said Larson, noting they jumped about an hour earlier than usual. “But you trust your coach, trust the flag and you just go.”
Action will continue Saturday with the large hill championship on the HS134m Olympic jump at the Utah Olympic Park. Trial round is set for 8:00 a.m. MDT. Saturday’s jump will also open the U.S. Nordic Combined Championship, with the closing cross country race set for Soldier Hollow Saturday evening.