Jumpers leap into prime time | ParkRecord.com

Jumpers leap into prime time

U.S. ski jumper Brenna Ellis gets set to take off from the jumps at the Utah Olympic Park during a training session on Tuesday morning.

Okay, enough training, already – it" Showtime! Time to compete. Starting Friday evening, it counts.

That feeling ripples through not only the U.S. women but the foreign women jumpers in town this week for the VISA Women’s Ski Jumping Festival, which opens the 2007 Continental Cup season for the women. Competition is set for Friday and Saturday nights at Utah Olympic Park; gates open at 4:30 p.m. each day, live music at 5 p.m. and jumping begins at 6 p.m.

"I know our girls are ready," said U.S. Coach Casey Colby, "and I’m sure all the others want to get going, too. You can only train for so long."

It’s been a busy week atop the toasty sports park with training jumps, welcoming the visiting teams, a well-attended media day Tuesday with local and national media at training and then interviewing the women (with a second jump session after lunch).

Eight nations will have nearly 30 of the top women jumpers in the world, including the top 11, competing. And it costs nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero to get in; just show up and they’ll usher you through the UOP gate. The Continental Cup is the highest level of women’s jumping.

The United States will have 10 women competing, from one of the youngest in the field – Avery Ardovino, who turned just 14 during the Olympics last February – to the most experienced in the sport, Karla Keck, who turns 31 at the end of this month.

In a steady downpour at the 1999 World Championships in Ramsau, Austria, Keck churned through the pool on the table, at the bottom of the in-run, and won the gold medal when women’s jumping was an exhibition event. Lindsey Van, just a thumbsize flyweight and too light to cut through the water, somehow muscled her way to fourth place in the downpour.

The U.S. troupe this week includes five of the top 15 skiers in last season’s Continental Cup points – Van in second place, Jessica Jerome in third, Abby Hughes ninth, Alissa Johnson 11th and Brenna Ellis 15th; Van, Jerome and Johnson are mixing college with jumping while Hughes just graduated from Park City H.S. and Ellis is heading into her junior year.

In addition to that high-flying five plus Ardovino and Keck, U.S. women jumpers this weekend will include Elisabeth Anderson, Karin Friberg and Brittany Rhoads.

Among other top jumpers in the field are Norwegian Annette Sagen, who has dueled Van for No. 1 in the sport over the last few years; teammate Line Jahr, No. 4 in the world; Austrian Daniela Iraschko, who swept both ends of the 2005 Continental Cup weekend; and, among others, two Canadian teens, who have won – Katie Willis and Atsuko Tanaka.

Seven foreign nations will be represented – Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Japan and Norway.

The women jumpers come into the VISA competition with incredible momentum for their sport. In May, the ruling International Ski Federation – turning aside a committee recommendation that would have cubby-holed the sport until 2011 – approved women’s jumping for inclusion in the ’09 World Championships. There also was a clear indication that FIS member nations want to see the sport included in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

If Vancouver officials accept it, women’s jumping still must gain International Olympic Committee approval. But once Vancouver okays it, the rest of the pieces are expected to fall into place.

Meanwhile, the spotlight swings from the procedural and falls this week on the women’s competitive side.

Bring a chair, bring a friend…bring two. The fun starts Friday at 4:30 p.m. at UOP. You can’t beat the price.

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