Utah awarded 2017 Junior Nordic Worlds | ParkRecord.com

Utah awarded 2017 Junior Nordic Worlds

At the annual International Ski Federation (FIS) meetings in Bulgaria last week, Utah was selected to host the 2017 Nordic Junior World Championships, marking the first time the event will be held in the U.S. since 1986. The event will showcase the cross-country tracks at Soldier Hollow in Midway and the Nordic combined jumps at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City.

The Nordic Junior World Championships are held every year, most recently in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The 2016 Junior Worlds are scheduled to be held in Râşnov, Romania.

Two age groups compete at the Junior Worlds — U23 and Juniors (U20). U23 athletes compete only in cross-country events, while the Junior athletes compete in ski jumping, Nordic combined and cross-country contests.

While Utah was unopposed in its bid to host the 2017 Junior World Championships, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) Vice President of Events Calum Clark said it’s important for Utah’s winter sports venues to continue to host events of this caliber.

"We said we need to do these high-level, elite international events," he said. "We’ve been off the radar for a little bit and wanted to have a plan."

The USSA submitted the bid officially, but Clark credited the organization’s partners at the UOP and at Soldier Hollow for bringing everything together.

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"This bid was really led by the folks at Soldier Hollow and the Utah Olympic Foundation at the UOP," he said. "At the end of the day, the USSA is the national governing body and the only group that can actually submit the bid, so that goes through us. But they did 100 percent of the legwork. They came to us almost 12 months ago with an initial concept and they’re the ones that made it happen."

With the world’s top junior and U23 skiers set to compete at the event, Clark said it will be a great chance for the area to showcase its Olympic legacy.

"This is the really great story about Park City," he said. "Park City and the region have truly defined what ‘Olympic legacy’ means. Soldier Hollow isn’t just a park that you go and run your dog in. They still run regular national championships and regional high-level events and they’re knocking on the door of these major international events, just like the UOP with bobsled and luge World Cups. Then you’ve got Deer Valley running World Cups and Park City has the Grand Prix — and [all three Park City resorts] are on the schedule for the 2019 [Freestyle, Freeskiing and Snowboarding] World Championships. Just the volume of stuff that’s going on that’s Olympic legacy-oriented, that’s the real amazing story about this place."

The last time the Nordic Junior World Championships were held in the United States was in 1986, when Lake Placid played host. Utah Olympic Park Nordic Program Manager Robert Lazzaroni competed for France in that event. He said it will be great to give another generation of U.S. kids the opportunity to compete at home on a large stage.

"It was a great experience for me as a teenager," he said. "We want to provide kids a great experience. We have a good group of kids here in Nordic combined and cross country."

Clark said it’ll be nice for U.S. athletes to not have to make a trans-Atlantic flight for a major competition, too.

"The Nordic teams are always going to Europe, always going to Scandinavia, to compete on their home turf," he said. "It’s great to actually have a home-field advantage for a change. These kids have been racing regional championships, junior national championships and national events for years and years at these venues. They know it — they know the snow, they know the environment. The altitude is unique and the top of the air is unique — that can only help."

With the 2017 Nordic Junior World Championships and the 2019 Freestyle, Freeskiing and Snowboarding World Championships to be held in the Park City area, Utah’s winter sports facilities will be showcased on a world-wide level. Clark said he didn’t know if that would translate into a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics or not, but said it couldn’t hurt.

"If this converts one day into a bid, great," he said. "But right now, the USOC has not said anything about a bid. They’re putting all their energy into [the] Boston [2024 Summer Olympics bid] and the nation’s supporting that. Right now, it’s just about doing a great job running great events. If that converts in time, great. Having the most robust Olympic legacy piece in the world is the current strategy."

According to a USSA press release, the Junior Worlds "bring in over 400 athletes from 30 nations to compete in 17 events across three disciplines."

Lazzaroni said it’s important to give the young athletes a great experience if Utah hopes to win the 2026 Olympics.

"We will host these 450 kids as juniors," he said. "So, hopefully, these athletes will be on top of the sport in 10-15 years if we host the Games. Hopefully they have a good experience in Utah and we send back 450 kids who will be our advocates."

The next step for the 2017 event is to host the FIS officials for an inspection of the venues. Clark said he doesn’t expect any problems there.

"The FIS is going to come out to the United States this summer and they’ll do site inspections," he said. "We believe we are in great shape for an infrastructure — the jumps are in great shape and the Nordic stuff is in great shape to host this event. The next part is what are the accommodation plans? Travel plans? What’s the budget? It’s all those activities and details that go into making this a good event.

"Thankfully, and this speaks to the quality of the venues, there won’t be any major, wholesale changes to the venues. We’re just going to showcase the great venues we already have."

Clark said excitement is building in the local Nordic community for the opportunity to host an event of this caliber. He added that the local Nordic programs are on track to ensure strong performances in 2017.

"The committee and the community are really fired up about this, fired up about the opportunity," he said. "There is talent out there in these age groups. What’s going on in the Utah and Park City community is really promising, as well as what’s happening in the wider, national field."

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