Five Parkites to compete at 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland next month
It’s safe to say that Christmas came a little early Parkite Paige Jones.
Jones, 17, not only graduated from Park City High School the week prior to the holiday, it was announced on Friday, Dec. 20 that she would be traveling to Lausanne, Switzerland, to represent Team USA for the upcoming 2020 Youth Olympic games in mid-January.
“The holidays definitely came early for me, as it’s been a crazy few days but also really exciting at the same time,” Jones said. “I’m done with high school and I’m going to be competing in the Youth Olympics, it’s hard to put into words a bit. I’m a little nervous but more than anything just excited and can’t wait to get there and start competing.
Jones isn’t the only Parkite heading overseas for the Youth Olympics, beginning on Thursday, Jan. 9 and running until Wednesday, Jan. 22.
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Lauren Macuga will participate in Alpine skiing while Sydney Palmer-Leger will participate in cross-country skiing.
The lone male representative from Park City is luger Matt Greiner. His classmate at Silver Summit Academy, Zoe Michaels, will represent Australia at the games, competing against Macuga in Alpine skiing.
“Park City is one of the two main places in the country with a luge track, but when people think of luge all they think about is Lake Placid,” Greiner said. “For me it’s all about Park City, and there’s a ton of pride that comes from that. I want to show USA Luge that Park City is a place to find athletes, and let everyone else around the world know that we have talented luge athletes here. … Because we tend to be overlooked but I’m out to show that’s not the case.”
Team USA’s roster is bigger this season.
In 2018, Team USA finished fourth overall in the Marc Holder Award standings, based on total Junior World Nordic Ski Championships, including a nation’s points awarded for cross country, ski jumping and Nordic combined.
For their top-eight finish, the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the International Olympic Committee awarded the Americans three Youth Olympic starts per gender across three disciplines — cross country skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined. This is a step up from previous competitions where only one athlete per gender was allowed to compete.
It appears that Jones, Michaels and Greiner are Park City’s top prospects in bringing home a medal.
“There is definitely pressure to perform, especially after the season I’ve been having and the success I’ve been able to find,” Grenier said. “There’s a good chance hat I can come out of this with something really incredible, a medal maybe. But whether that happens or not, I’m just stoked to be there competing and am going to have a blast with it all.”
Jones, who is already a member of the USA national ski jumping team, recently competed at the Continental Cup in Notodden, Norway, on Dec. 13-14, placing as high as 28th. Before then, she announced her presence to the world when she finished 19th at the FIS Cup in Ljubno, Slovakia in early August.
“I think my experience already will definitely because I’ve been competing against the best in the world over the last two seasons,” Jones said. “I’m not nervous for it, more confident than anything. … I’ll compete at my best if I’m confident going into it and I think I am.”
Greiner is America’s top singles luge racer, currently ranked No. 3 in the Youth A World Cup rankings with 268 points. In his five races this season, Greiner has finished in the top eight each time and, most recently, placed third in Altenberg, Germany.
“The best way to treat the Games is to treat it like any other race,” Greiner said. “It’s just another set of training days leading up to it and another set of runs where you gain experience through training. I can’t get overhyped, although it’s also a big deal and I can’t diminish that. There’s a balance that I must find, but no matter what I’m going to soak it all up because it’s going to be a blast.”
Palmer-Leger is on a hot streak right now, with four consecutive top three finishes at her most recent events. She finished in third the final day of the NorAm Cup in Canada earlier this month, before finishing second, third and third at the US Super Tour in Park City two weekends ago.
Likewise, Macuga is entering the Youth Olympic Games following strong performances in her most recent competitions.
At a NorAm Cup event in Canada two weeks ago, Macuga finished fifth in the downhill and third in the Super-G before finishing 14th in Alpine combined and 15th in Giant Slalom the following week at a different NorAm Cup event in Canada.
For Michaels, the month of December has been kind to her, as she won a FIS event in slalom at Snow King Mountain Resort in Jackson, Wyoming, on Dec. 16. She followed that up with a sixth place finish two days later in giant slalom, while finishing 13th and 18th a week later FIS races in Steamboat Springs.
Alpine skiing at the Youth Olympics will begin on Friday, Jan. 10 in Diablerets, Switzerland before concluding on Wednesday, Jan. 15. Cross-country skiing will take place in Vallée de Joux, Switzerland, beginning on Saturday, Jan. 18 and concluding on Wednesday, Jan. 22. The luge events will take place in St. Moritz, Switzerland from the Friday, Jan. 17 to Monday, Jan. 20 while ski jumping will take place in Les Tuffes, France from Sunday, Jan. 19 to Wednesday, Jan. 22.
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.