The 16-year-old Emilee Anderson is poised to make history at the Youth Olympic Winter Games. This Saturday, this young woman from Wisconsin will represent the United States and the Visa Women’s Ski Jumping Team at the January 14th inaugural 2012 Youth Olympic Winter Games held in Innsbruck, Austria. This year is the first season that women have been permitted to compete in ski jumping in an International Olympic Committee (IOC)-sanctioned event. The sport of ski jumping has been practiced at the competitive level for nearly 90 years!
“I’m so excited and this is a big honor for me,” said Anderson, who qualified for her spot in October at an event in Lake Placid, N.Y. “I’m going to do my best to represent our country, my club and the Central Division.”
The Youth Olympic Winter Games (YOG) is an international multi-sport event organized by the IOC that will take place every four years, consistent with the current format of the Olympic Winter Games.
The teenage skier hails grew up in the Midwest and was first exposed to ski jumping at the age of 5, following the footsteps of her older sister Elisabeth. Emilee Anderson trains in Eau Claire and depends on her parents to drives her an hour-and-a-half multiple times a week to work with her coaches at the St. Paul Ski Club.
When asked about the young skier being a bit nervous for her very fist international competition, longtime coach, Brian Nelson explains, “Emilee has never been scared of anything in ski jumping. Nothing really fazes her,” said longtime coach Brian Nelson. “She’s very low-key and goes about her business and that’s something that really benefits her in ski jumping.”
The younger Anderson was named to the development team of Women’s Ski Jumping after qualifying for the Youth Games. She is well known for her laid-back personality and ability to have fun while performing great.
This day holds a great deal of historical significance for the upcoming games, and has been a long-time in development. Back in 2010, the IOC included a women’s ski jumping event on the upcoming 2012 Youth Games program, which set the scene for the April 6, 2011 decision to include women in the upcoming ski jumping competition in the Olympic Games of 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Anderson has a lot of support from her family, coaches, and even some of competitive skiing top athletes.
“I am thrilled we have a representative at the first-ever Youth Games,” said Jessica Jerome, ranked fifth in the world last season. “I love how much the sport has grown since I was Emilee’s age. She has a lot of talent and I hope that this will just motivate her more.”
Jerome took notice of Anderson at a Lake Placid event where she was helping an official check the fit of athletes’ suits.
“I asked Emilee if the suit she had was her competition suit or her training suit. She said it was her only suit,” Jerome said. “When I was her age, good equipment was scarce for me too, and once you had a good suit, or a good pair of skis, (for example) you held on to that for as long as possible.”
A couple weeks later, the veteran ski jumped found one her own suits (that was practically brand new, and didn’t fit) and mailed it to the young up-and-comer. “Emilee is a little shorter than me, so I thought it would be a nice fit. I would rather have her put it to good use than have it sit in a closet and not see too many jumps.”
One can only imagine how impactful such a gesture would be on the young Anderson. Over the past few months, that suit has been getting good use. Emilee has been traveling and competing throughout the Midwest and East Coast, getting as many jumps under her belt as she could in preparation for the Youth Games. She now knows she is ready.
“This is a dream come true for me,” she said.
The Innsbruck Games will run Jan. 13-22, attracting an expected 1,057 athletes between the ages of 14-18 from more than 80 countries. The individual ski jumping event takes place Jan. 14 and the team event is scheduled for Jan. 20. Each team is made up of the participating country’s ladies ski jumper (Anderson), male ski jumper (Will Rhoads) and male Nordic Combined athlete (Colton Kissel).