(Photo Credit – Romina Eggert)
Strong winds and rain added to the challenge this weekend at the Ski Jumping World Cup in Titisee-Neustadt, Germany. After arriving on Thursday, the team was expecting to have official training and qualification on Friday, but the weather had other ideas. While the organizing committee was able to get through official training, high winds forced them to cancel the qualification round and reschedule it for the next day.
In a year that has seen little to no snow here at home, it has been tough for our US athletes to get jumps on snow. When combined with a constant travel schedule, and a limited amount of open training in Europe, it has made for a difficult start to the season.
Saturday’s qualification went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, the only North American athlete to qualify for the individual competition on Sunday was Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes, who travels and trains with our USA Nordic Team. It was a better day for Boyd-Clowes, though he is still looking to improve. Will Rhoads was the best American, just a few points out. Kevin Bickner was close once again, as was Michael Glasder.
On Sunday, the winds were back. The competition was delayed multiple times, and eventually was shortened to one round. Wind conditions were constantly changing, switching back and forth, often from one jumper to the next. Boyd-Clowes was early in the round, when the weather was the worst, which may have been a factor in his 44th place finish.
“Things didn’t go as well as we planned, and for sure we’re disappointed,” said Head Coach Bine Norcic. “The conditions today and this weekend were not dangerous,” Norcic added. “Conditions were changing and it was challenging, but it was also a good opportunity to get some results and we didn’t take advantage.”
On Thursday the men’s team will head to Engelberg, Switzerland, for two individual World Cup competitions, before coming home for a holiday break and US Olympic Trials at the end of the month in Park City, UT.
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(Photo Credit – Romina Eggert)
Both the Men’s Nordic Combined team and the Women’s Ski Jumping team were off this week as they prepared for next weekend’s competitions. The Women’s National team stayed in Europe to focus on training and recharging, while the Nordic Combined team came home for their version of R & R.
While it may have been a slower weekend on the World Cup level, there was plenty of action on this side of the pond with the first Ski Jumping FIS Cups and Continental Cups of the season in Whistler, BC.
Coaches Clint Jones and Blake Hughes, along with Gasper Bartol and Anders Johnson, took a team of 17 of our national and junior national ski jumping team members up north for a weekend packed with events. The group represented the best of the next generation and they did not disappoint.
The weekend began with back-to-back FIS Cups for both the men and the women on Thursday and Friday. Annika Belshaw led the weekend off for the women with a 5th place finish on Thursday. It was a great start to the season for Belshaw, and a career best. Other notable American finishes included Logan Sankey (7), Cara Larson (9), Anna Hoffman (10), Sam Macuga (11), and Sophie Nester (12).
Friday brought another FIS Cup for the women and another good day. This time it was Anna Hoffmann who took the top American spot, finishing 6th. Once again a USA Nordic skier had a career day. For a second day in a row, the whole team did well, with Sankey (7), Belshaw (8), and Larson (9) hot on Hoffmann’s tail. Macuga was 11th for the second day in a row and Sophia Nester was 14th.
“I’m pretty psyched with the girls right now,” said coach Blake Hughes. “They’ve really been more focused on athletics this year, taking things a little more seriously. In Lake Placid this fall, I challenged them to step up and become the next group and they’ve all made pretty big strides and gains in the last few months.”
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(Photo Credit – Blake Hughes)
Next, Coach Hughes will take Belshaw, Hoffmann, Macuga, and Sankey to Notodden, Norway, for Women’s Continental Cups. Larson also qualified for the trip but will have to skip this one due to school finals. While the goal is always the best results possible, the purpose of this trip is to give the girls a chance to score COC points before Olympic Trials at the end of the month. Continental Cup points are necessary to qualify to ski in the Trials.
As for the men that traveled North, they found that in an Olympic year, the competition is stiff no matter what level. Though the weekend featured two FIS Cups and two Continental Cups, the level was high all around. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, every athlete was entered into the FIS Cups, making them essentially Continental Cups, but with more athletes. Just like on the women’s tour, FIS Cup points are a requirement to enter in a COC.
Team Director and Coach Clint Jones said he wasn’t really all that surprised at the level of competition, “It’s an Olympic year and it’s the first competitions of the season, so everyone made the trip.”
Jones noted that there were a lot of well known names on the start list, including a handful of guys who have won World Cups in years past. While it’s common to see World Cup skiers on the Continental Cup level, it is unusual to see so many at an event in North America.
A total of 86 athletes were entered in the FIS Cups each day. Casey Larson was the top athlete on Thursday, finishing 53rd, while Friday’s top spot was taken by Andrew Urlaub. Jones called Urlaub the “highlight of the weekend” for the men’s team, saying he was impressed with the young skier and noting that the level of competition was “definitely challenging for the younger skiers.”
Saturday and Sunday’s Continental Cups produced similar results for the US skiers. AJ Brown was the top American both days, finishing in 50th place on Saturday and 52nd on Sunday. Once again, a lack of winter weather at home seemed to play a part in the results.
“All of our older athletes got better and better throughout the weekend,” said Jones. “But it’s pretty obvious that they just need more jumps on snow.”
With the weather finally cooperating and temps low enough to make and maintain snow, our younger athletes should finally be able to enjoy some jumping here at home, at least for those who are sticking around through Olympic Trials. Others have already left and are on their way to Europe for Continental Cups in Finland. Brown, Larson, and Mattoon will be skiing in Ruka this weekend after less than eight hours at home.
From Continental Cups in Steamboat, Finland, and Norway to World Cups in Engelberg, Hinterzarten, and Ramsau, there won’t be a minute of downtime for our fans this weekend. Be sure to stay tuned for the World Cup Watch Schedule and go USA Nordic!