With the 2011 backcountry.com U.S. Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Championships just days away, the U.S. Olympic and World Championship medalists are in town training on the Olympic venues, the Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow. The event will be held July 30-August 1, marking the third year the traditionally wintertime event has held its championships in summertime.
“The summer’s warmer and it’s more comfortable to jump,” said Eric Camerota (Park City, UT). “It seems more relaxed, not as many competitions. A lot of people just have fun in the summer.”
The U.S. Ski Team’s Olympic medalists including Olympic champion Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY), World Champions Todd Lodwick and Olympic silver medalist Brett Camerota (Park City, UT) will highlight the field, competing in both the ski jumping and nordic combined championships.
“This is sort of the first real competition of the year, so it has a little more importance to it,” said Demong. “Everyone is fired up to see how summer training is going. This year we have a lot of young hungry juniors on the ski jumping and combined side. They’re going to go hard and see if they can dethrone Todd and I from the string of U.S. Championship titles.”
Lake Placid’s 1980 Olympic village has hosted the summer Championships for the past two years. From east to west, the venue shifts to the 2002 Olympic venues for an exciting late July weekend extravaganza. The site change also puts two jumps back onto the schedule with the K90 and K120.
“The track is a porcelain track with your skis fitting right in so they can’t move around,” said Olympian Peter Frenette (Saranac Lake, NY). “It mimics ice pretty well, just like in the winter and when you land it’s like plastic mats. They wet it down so it’s kind of like a big slip-and-slide.”
The U.S. Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Championship competition opens this weekend on Friday with the men and women launching off the K90 Olympic jump. The trial jumps start at 9:00 a.m., followed by two competition rounds. The U.S. Ski Jumping Championship also acts as a qualifier for the male athletes to earn spots in the Norwegian Continental Cups in the fall.
Defending champions Nick Alexander (Lebanon, NH) and Jessica Jerome (Park City, UT) will be looking to repeat their success in Lake Placid from a year ago. Anders Johnson (Park City, UT) and Lindsey Van (Park City, UT), who are among the ski jumping favorites, will be flying for the titles, hoping to win in front of their hometown crowd.
Friday will also feature a nordic combined exhibition event, with the morning competition used as the jumping segment of a nordic combined two-man team sprint. The traditional cross country piece will be contested on roller skis on a multi-lap sprint course set around the Utah Olympic Park. The second portion of the event is set to begin at 5:00 p.m.
The Utah Olympic Park’s annual Festival of Flight is scheduled for Saturday, beginning on the Park’s smaller jumps at 9:00 a.m. with the Springer Tournee. The standing ski jump competition starts at 2:00 p.m. on the big K120 Olympic jump, where fans can be sure to watch some big jumps. The Flying Aces All Stars will shut down the event with a 5:00 p.m. performance in the splash pool.
The official U.S. Nordic Combined Championship will be on Sunday with athletes jumping on the K120. Men and women’s ski jumping large hill titles will be on the line with jumping starting at 9:00 a.m. The day will close with a 6:00 p.m. start for the 10km title at Soldier Hollow’s paved roller ski trails. Lodwick is the defending U.S. champion with a goal of adding another title to his list.
“I want to win on my son’s birthday, August 1,” said Lodwick. “That’ll be sweet.”
“It’s a great setting to come out and watch ski jumping, especially with nice weather in Park City,” said Demong. “It’s absolutely no different than the winter. We’re still going super fast, super far and flying really high.”
Admission to the 2011 backcountry.com U.S. Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Championships is free.