Will Rhoads, USA Ski Jumping’s Large Hill and Normal Hill National Champion, provides an update for the community.
The second half of the summer season is always interesting as winter nears, the competition and training levels go higher and higher. Our team did a great job keeping up with this pace and continued to produce quality results from August through October. The team has been all over the world in the past few months, mixing training with competition in a variety of places.
August seemed to be Kevin’s month as he stayed hot with a great weekend in Japan. He was leading the Grand Prix after the first round, and held on to a career best 7th place! He produced three top-16 results in the month at the sports highest level.
(See Kevin’s athlete page here for a video of him soaring in training in Predazzo).
September was a little busier for most of the team. We hit the road from our usual training spot in Slovenia to spend a few days training in Predazzo, Italy. We took advantage of jumping a different hill with calm conditions and I think it was very beneficial for everyone. I made some of my first jumps after injury in Italy, after over a month of being sidelined by a wrist surgery. From Predazzo we drove over the Alps to Stamms, Austria for a Continental Cup. The team looked very strong, in a high level event that featured the Austrian A-Team competing with home field advantage. Mackenzie wowed everyone with a 3rd place podium finish on Saturday and 5th on Sunday. Kevin was solid coming in 17th and 15th, and I was 25th and 11th on the weekend. With just a week of jumping since my surgery, I was pretty satisfied with my return to competition. Mike Glasder also produced some quality Continental Cup finishes in Lillehammer and Wisla in September, as did our other friend from Canada, Josh Maurer. We spent the rest of the month training back in Slovenia in preparation for the last few events of the summer.
In early October Mackenzie, Mike and I all traveled to Klingenthal, Germany for a triple-header weekend with two Continental Cups followed by the Grand Prix finale. Mac continued his successful summer with a 5th and 7th place in the Continental Cup, followed up by an astounding 6th place in a World Cup-level Grand Prix finale! He is in store for a huge winter in my opinion. I had probably the best weekend of my career in Klingenthal placing 19th and 5th in the Continental Cups, as well as scoring my first Grand Prix points placing 24th. Kevin Bickner also joined us in Klingenthal on Sunday, as he was jumping in Hinzenbach, Austria the day before in a Grand Prix. He was strong again coming in 27th in Hinzenbach and narrowly missed the cut in Klingenthal at 31st. I think the weekend was really successful for the team as a whole, as we reinforced the fact that we are now competitive with the best jumpers in the world.
The Americans then said goodbye to our Canadian pals and hopped on a plane back to the U.S., headed to Lake Placid for U.S. Nationals on the small hill. Lake Placid was a little unpredictable with some tricky wind. This was complicated by the fact that we had so many guys capable of over-jumping the hill. I was very happy to jump the way that I did on Sunday and was able to walk away with another National Title! The event was indicative of our progress as we were all the way down at gate 2, still putting jumps down way past 100 meters! We had a repeat of the podium of the Large Hill Championships earlier this summer with Kevin in second, and Casey moving up to third after a great second round jump. Casey has maybe improved the most this summer, even though he has not been able to train with us lately because he has to finish up high school! I think he will be turning some heads once he graduates this December.
Overall, the summer has been really productive in my opinion. I think almost everyone is jumping much better now than they were a year ago and it showed with numerous career bests this summer. Now, we’ll put in the final preparation for the winter. We will meet in Slovenia at the beginning of November. The first World Cup event is November 24th in Ruka, Finland.