Ski Jump­ing 2016/17 High­lights

U.S.A.'S Bick­ner Leads Nextgen Charge

SkiTrax - - International Comp - By Julie Me­lan­son

North Amer­i­can ski jumpers have joined forces un­der a new pro­gram and con­tinue to make their mark on the in­ter­na­tional scene, with vet­er­ans and young up­starts ready to strut their stuff at top events on the cal­en­dar, in­clud­ing those on home turf.

Men's Ski Jump­ing

Fol­low­ing a strong sum­mer where he had a ca­reer-best sixth at a Grand Prix in Klin­gen­thal, Ger­many, Cana­dian Macken­zie Boyd-clowes demon­strated that he con­tin­ues to be a top-10 threat. In early De­cem­ber back in Klin­gen­thal at Round Two of the World Cup, he nailed a first-round jump that put him in sixth place and ended up a sea­son-best 12th over­all.

In early Fe­bru­ary at the 2017 USANA FIS Nordic Ju­nior World Cham­pi­onships in Park City, Utah, Casey Lar­son from Bar­ring­ton, Ill. soared to sixth af­ter the first round with a 92.5-me­tre ride. In the fi­nal round, the 20-year-old out of Norge Ski Club out­side Chicago, Ill. went 92 me­tres and dropped down to eighth over­all, only one spot away from the Amer­i­can Ju­nior Worlds men's record held by U.S. Coach Clint Jones back in 2002.

“I put down two solid jumps that I was re­ally pumped about, so I re­ally can't com­plain about any­thing. There's a cou­ple com­pe­ti­tions left, so I just want to keep that groove go­ing and not try too hard and let it flow,” said Lar­son, who also noted his con­fi­dence was high as the hill is on his sum­mer-train­ing grounds.

In March at the Lahti 2017 World Cham­pi­onships, all four Amer­i­can ski jumpers qual­i­fied for the HS130M Large-hill medal round – the first time since 1991 in Val di Fiemme, Italy, where the U.S.A. saw four men ad­vance to the Large-hill fi­nal.

Michael Glas­der (Cary, Ill.) led the four­some with a 116-me­tre jump to fin­ish 14th, while Will Rhoads (Park City, Utah) also went 116 me­tres to come in 21st. Both at their de­but Worlds, Lar­son was 33rd and Kevin Bick­ner (Wau­conda, Ill.) placed 34th.

In the fi­nal, Bick­ner, 20, fin­ished 30th, earn­ing the best U.S. men's fin­ish on the Large Hill at a Worlds since Alan Al­born was 27th in 1999. On his first jump, Bick­ner soared 117 me­tres to place 28th, mak­ing the top-30 cut for the sec­ond round. On his fi­nal jump, he man­aged only 104 me­tres and dropped to 30th. Rhoads fin­ished 39th, Glas­der was 40th and Lar­son placed 46th.

Then on March 19 at the penul­ti­mate round of the World Cup in Vik­er­sund, Nor­way, Bick­ner claimed a new Amer­i­can ski-jump­ing record on the HS225M ski hill, fly­ing 244.5 me­tres fol­low­ing a strong 233.5-me­tre trial. His sec­ond jump was 234.5 me­tres, but he hung onto 15th de­spite a crash on land­ing. Poland's Kamil Stoch took the win.

“I've been look­ing for­ward to this event the en­tire sea­son,” said Bick­ner, who grew up out­side Chicago and now trains at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah. “Vik­er­sund is a big deal to me. It was here I had my first ex­pe­ri­ence ski fly­ing and [the] first time go­ing over 200 me­tres. I also felt like it was a very unique hill and rather challenging, and I had learned how to jump it so there would be an ad­van­tage.”

He hopes to in­spire more in­ter­est in the sport lead­ing up to the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. “I feel like ski jump­ing's been ig­nored and as­sumed dead, but this will let peo­ple know it's very much alive and on an up­ward climb. I think th­ese ac­com­plish­ments are re­ally im­por­tant for the ad­vance­ment of ski jump­ing in Amer­ica,” Bick­ner added.

As the sea­son came to a close, Aus­tria's Ste­fan Kraft took the over­all World Cup se­ries crown, while Canada's “Mac” [Boyd-clowes] is still the top North Amer­i­can on the cir­cuit, fin­ish­ing 41st, with the U.S.A.'S Bick­ner hot on his heels in a three-way tie for 42nd. It ap­pears that the “Team North Amer­ica” con­cept un­der Head Coach Bine Nordic is work­ing well, and all eyes are on the Olympic sea­son ahead.

Women's Ski Jump­ing

A former world cham­pion, U.S.A.'S Sarah Hen­drick­son from Park City, Utah made a strong re­turn to the FIS Ski Jump­ing World Cup af­ter a nearly 15-month ab­sence, fin­ish­ing 11th on the open­ing day at Round One in Lille­ham­mer, Nor­way by jump­ing 84.5 and 90 me­tres. On Day Two, she was eighth, jump­ing 94.5 and 89 me­tres.

Hav­ing in­jured her­self in the sum­mer be­fore the 2014 Olympics, Hen­drick­son at­tempted sev­eral come­backs, but took a break af­ter the 2015 sea­son for more fol­low-up surgery, tak­ing her time to come back as strong as pos­si­ble.

“Yes­ter­day was so much fun,” said Hen­drick­son. “I can­not put into words how amaz­ing it felt to be back with a bib on. I hon­estly thought the day would never come, as I wanted to give up so many times.”

At Round Two in Nizkny Tagil, Rus­sia, Hen­drick­son con­tin­ued her streak, fin­ish­ing 10th on the sec­ond day of com­pe­ti­tion. On the Large Hill In­di­vid­ual in Round Three in Ober­st­dorf, Ger­many in early Jan­uary, Hen­drick­son de­liv­ered an­other strong top-10 re­sult, fin­ish­ing ninth on Day One. On Day Two, her team­mate Nita Englund from Florence, Wis. fin­ished a solid 12th, while Cana­dian Tay­lor Hen­rich from Cal­gary, Alta. was 15th.

In late Jan­uary, Hen­drick­son claimed ninth in Ras­nov, Ro­ma­nia at Round Six, while Canada's Natasha Bod­nar­chuk took home a ca­reer-best 12th at the Ju­nior Worlds that kicked off in Park City, Utah.

Bod­nar­chuk was part of a four­some of young Cana­dian women that in­cluded Natalie Eil­ers, Abi­gail Strate and Ni­cole Mau­rer, who earned their first World Cup points at Round Nine in mid-fe­bru­ary at the Olympic test event at Pyeongchang, South Korea. With th­ese re­sults, the four young jumpers were named to the Na­tional team at the Na­tional Cham­pi­onships in Whistler, B.C. in early April. The U.S.A.'S Englund also had great re­sults at Pyeongchang, fin­ish­ing sev­enth on Day One and eighth on Day Two.

In early March at the Lahti 2017 Worlds, Hen­rich showed her form again, claim­ing 16th. Hen­drick­son led the U.S.A. in 23rd, with Englund fin­ish­ing 27th.

As the sea­son came to an end, Hen­drick­son topped the North Amer­i­cans, fin­ish­ing 14th over­all, fol­lowed by Englund in 16th. Hen­rich led the Cana­di­ans in 33rd, while Ja­pan's Sara Takanashi claimed the women's se­ries ti­tle for the fourth time.

Kevin Bick­ner claimed a new Amer­i­can ski-jump­ing record and the best U.S. men's fin­ish on the Large Hill at Worlds since 1999.

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