2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Spotlight: Jessica Jerome
Jessica Jerome’s ski jumping career didn’t start the way many of her teammates’ careers started.
Unlike some of her Women’s Ski Jumping USA and U.S. Ski Team teammates who had brothers or fathers prominently involved in the sport, Jerome, who moved to Park City from Jacksonville, Fla., when she was five, was seven years old when she entered an after-school jumping program.
Already familiar with the world of alpine skiing, Jerome says a transition into jumping was inevitable.
"When we would alpine ski when we were kids, I’d duck off the trails and hit the jumps off on the side," she said. "Ski jumping, for me, was the fun part without the boring downhill part."
So, thanks to a school presentation, she found a way to get her career started.
"The local club came to my school when I was in second grade and did a presentation on ski jumping," she said. "They handed out brochures. I took the brochure home and my mom signed me up."
The rest, as they say, is history.
In her 12 years of competing internationally, Jerome has won 11 U.S. titles, but is hoping for more. Though she’s earned a World Cup podium by finishing third at a 2012 event in Hinterzarten, Germany, she’s never won a World Cup or a World Championship.
"The highlight of my career is yet to come," she said. "There have been some fun parts, definitely, but I hope that it gets even more fun."
When asked what she’d like to accomplish before she calls it quits on her competitive career, she doesn’t hesitate at all while listing three of her biggest goals.
"I’d like to say that I’ve been to the Olympics," she said. "I’d like to say that I’ve gone ski flying and jumped over 200 meters. I would like to say that I competed in a team World Championship event and we won. World Championships doesn’t have a team event yet, so when they do eventually add it, I’d like to be on that team and I’d like to win that event."
Though she’ll have to wait until 2015 at the earliest to get a shot at the World Championship goal, she might just be able to cross the Olympic goal off her list in February.
For Jerome, whose 27th birthday will fall on Feb. 8, the second day of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, participating in the Games as a part of the first-ever women’s ski jumping competition would be an excellent birthday present.
"It would be amazing," she said. "It’s one of the big goals for me coming into the season. I’m just trying to take it day by day and, if I get there, I’ll allow myself to soak that in and then do my job."
With a maximum of four Olympic slots available to Team USA in women’s ski jumping, Jerome said she’ll focus on improving her jumping during the World Cup season.
"I would really like to throw in a couple podiums in the first period [of the World Cup season] would be great," she said. "That’s a competition in Lillehammer [Norway], a competition in Russia, and there’s another one in there too. I know that if I go into the season and get those podiums I want, it’ll be easier on me mentally. Nothing is for sure yet as far as who the team is, so I’m trying to take things day by day and do whatever I need to do that day to be better."
If Jerome does make the U.S. Olympic squad, it’ll be the culmination of a long fight to get the sport recognized and accepted by the International Olympic Committee.
Getting the phone call saying women’s ski jumping had been accepted into the Olympics "was a relief, if anything," she said. "It wasn’t a huge call to celebrate in my mind. It was sort of like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. It was like, ‘OK, finally, this is happening. Now let’s get back to work.’"
While competing in the Olympics is a good start, Jerome, who was one of the most vocal advocates for women’s ski jumping along with teammate Lindsey Van, would like to see the sport achieve complete equality with men’s ski jumping.
"Just because we have one Olympic event doesn’t mean that we’re done trying to make the sport grow more," she said. "The men have three Olympic events; we have one. We have our foot in the door and we’re going to try to push to get more Olympic events, more World Championship events and ski-flying events so that hopefully, at some point, we’ll be absolutely on the same level."
But, if she makes the Olympic team, she’ll definitely allow herself to appreciate the history-making moment and enjoy the ride.
Every week until the start of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, The Park Record will highlight an Olympic hopeful with ties to the Park City area. Check back next week for a story about ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson.
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Park City is the lone undefeated team in Region 10 play after a 60-30 win over Mountain View. The Miners have three more region games in their quest to repeat as region champions.