PLANICA, Slovenia (Dec. 9, 2020) – Imagine soaring through the air on skis for 244 meters! Three USA Nordic ski jumpers will be in the field this week for the World Ski Flying Championships in Planica, Slovenia. The World Championships had originally been scheduled last March in Planica, but was postponed at the onset of the pandemic. The USA Nordic team has been preparing for the World Championships at its Slovenian training center.
The USA Nordic team will include Casey Larson (21, Barrington, Ill., Norge Ski Club), Decker Dean (20, Steamboat Springs, Colo., Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club) and Patrick Gasienica (22, Spring Grove, Ill., Norge Ski Club).
Ski flying features the biggest jump structures and longest rides in the sport of ski jumping. The Letalnica jump in Planica has a hill size (HS) of 240 meters – the largest in the world along with Vikersund, Norway. The hill record of 252.0 meters was set in 2019 by Japanese jumper Ryōyū Kobayashi. Austrian Gregor Schlierenzauer jumped 253.5 meters in 2018, but fell on his landing.
“The ski flying hill is coming on the plate pretty early this season,” said USA Nordic Men’s Coach Bine Norčič. “The preparation period was a little tricky and unusual compared to a normal season. But I have to say, our athletes did a good job dealing with the COVID situation. They all sacrificed a lot and didn’t go back home after the summer season just to stay on track and be ready for the winter season.”
It will be the first appearance at a Ski Flying World Championships for all three U.S. jumpers. Larson is the only U.S. athlete who brings in ski flying experience. His long jump of 216.5 meters was set at Vikersund in March, 2017.
“Casey is already an experienced ski flyer but it will be a first for Decker and Patrick,” said Norčič. “I am sure they will experience some nice long flights. They are in good shape so we are confident going into the upcoming World Championships. But, at the end, the priority is to stay healthy which the guys are doing a good job with.”
In a typical large hill World Cup event, jumps can extend out to 125-140 meters for top athletes. But on a ski flying hill, jumps in the 220-250 meter range are not uncommon – a distance far greater than the length of two and a half football fields!
“Any good ski jumper would tell you ski flying is all about feeling the rhythm of the hill and keeping your speed,” said Larson. “Especially for the monster that is Planica, I’m just staying relaxed and planning on having fun over the weekend. You have to realize that it is still a ski jump. There’s no greater feeling than going past 200 meters – so that’s my goal.”
Larson, who is coming off a top-30 World Cup finish in Finland, realizes that ski flying is still a new experience for him so the weekend will be experiential.
For Gasienica and Dean, it will be their debut in ski flying. “Ski flying has been a dream of mine for as long as I could remember – especially Planica!” said Gasienica. “To get this opportunity to ski fly for my first time ever, on the one hill I’ve dreamed about, is indescribable. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a new hill in my entire life. I’m very much looking forward to that beast and looking to have a great ski flying debut.”
Dean echoed the excitement as they headed to Planica this week. “I am super excited and grateful for the opportunity to compete this weekend. Ski flying in Planica has been a dream of mine since I started jumping and I’m thrilled that it will be a reality here soon. I am confident in my training and plan to put my best foot forward when the competition rolls around.”
NBC’s Peacock TV will provide live streaming coverage from Planica. The coverage is free for all Peacock Plus subscribers ($4.99/month).
WORLD SKI FLYING CHAMPIONSHIPS (live streaming on Peacock TV)
Thursday, Dec. 10 (all times EST)
10:00 a.m. – HS240m qualifying
Friday, Dec. 11
10:00 a.m. – HS240m World Championship
Sunday, Dec. 13
10:00 a.m. – HS240 Team World Championship