Competition continues in Nordic world |

Competition continues in Nordic world

Continental Cup winners (from l to r): Anette Sagen, Lindsey Van, Izumi Yamada, Juliane Seyfahrt, Alissa Johnson and Daniela Iraschko.

The Olympics may be over, but on the Nordic hill, winter competition is still continuing. Many hopefuls are currently hard at work already looking toward the next Games.

This week the National Sports Foundation (NSF), which is based out of the Utah Olympic Park (UOP), sent many of their promising young stars across the country and the world to compete.

The Junior Olympics for Nordic combined and ski jumping athletes took place this week in Lebanon, New Hamphire. The cross-country team is also in Junior Olympic competition in Houghton, Mich., located in the Upper Peninsula region.

For NSF director, Greg Poirier, the Junior Olympics is an opportunity for some of their young athletes to shine. Poirier says junior boys, Nick Hendrickson in Nordic combined and jumper Andrew Jerome, are some of the top young athletes in the country and should represent Park City well. Among the girls, he expects Avery Ardovino to finish well.

Another athlete that Poirier expects to be successful is cross-country skier Rosie Brennan, who dominated in last year’s Junior Olympics and should lead the pack again.

"She’s one of the best juniors in the country by far," Poirier said.

The UOP will also host their own spectacle of junior achievements next week, March 8-11, as the North American Junior Championships come to town.The age limit for Nordic combined and ski jumping Junior Olympians caps off at 15, so the championship event is designed for the older juniors, ages 16-19. This will be the first time that Park City has hosted the event, and Poirier says that athletes from both disciples will becoming from all over the country as well as Canada.

The event will not have concessions or seating, but Poirier says that many of thetalented athletes will be competing and spectators are welcome. Although Americans are often not as competitive at the elite level in Nordic disciplines, Poirier says that the juniors seem to fare just as well as the European contingent.

"At a young age, we are fairly competitive with Europe and as they get older, I’m not sure," Poirier said. "We are trying to come together as coaches to figure out why we’re not as competitive."

One area where America is competitive at the top level is on the women’s side. In their first trip ever to Japan this past week, the U.S. women ski jumpers dominated in Continental Cup competition, led by Parkite Lindsey Van, who won both jumping events.

According to head coach Casey Colby, the American contingent adjusted to Asian soil very well and it showed in their results. The women did encounter rain and a little less air than their male counterparts on the first day of competition, but it did not stop Van from soaring over the top-ranked female jumper in the world, Anette Sagen of Norway. Jessica Jerome finished third.

Colby said the second competition brought ever-changing weather conditions, but Van was still successful. Van’s is only one of three different first-place winner thus far on the Continental Cup tour this winter.

NSF athletes who qualified for the Cross-Country Junior Olympic Championships include Rosie Brennan, Elizabeth Guiney, Ben Page (Salt Lake City), Andrew Putt and Kirsten Stray-Gunderson.

The National Sports Foundation will host the 2006 North American Junior Championships (ski jumping and Nordic combined only) March 8 – 11. The jumping and cross-country events will take place at Utah Olympic Park. Athletes from the Eastern, Central, Rocky Mountain and Intermountain divisions as well as Canada, will participate. Competition on the K120 jumping hill will begin on Thursday, March 9 at 10 a.m. Competition on the K90 is Saturday, March 11 at 10 a.m. The cross-country races are Thursday and Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.

The NSF athletes representing the Intermountain Division (IMD) at the Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Junior Olympic Championships in New Hampshire include, Avery Ardovino, AJ Ardovino, Hyrum Bailey, Shane Erisoty (Ogden), Ian Hanson, Nick Hendrickson, Andrew Jerome, Alan Morgan, Michael Odenheimer and Tyler Smith.

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