Stephen Schumann returned from injury to finish fourth at Springer Tournee
Last July following a crash while ski jumping, Stephen Schumann lay in a hospital bed after doctors had just cut open his knee to repair a torn ACL he suffered after he crashed while ski jumping in Park City, his hometown.
The once-promising athlete was now relegated to his bed and a life without skis — for the time being.
“Almost exactly a year ago — July 23 to be exact — I crashed on the large hill while training for nationals. My knee got twisted up as I landed, tearing my meniscus and ACL while spraining my MCL and LCL,” Schumann said. “I’ve been recovering from that injury for the past 10-11 months but now I’m back, doing Nordic and all that good stuff again.”
One year from that time Schumann spent lying in a hospital bed, he was back competing, in Park City nonetheless.
With only two months to train for the 21st annual North American Jindro Mayer Springer Tournee, the premiere U.S. championship event of the summer for ski jumping and Nordic combined, Schumann went out and proved to not only himself, but the rest of the ski jumping community, that he was back and ready for more.
“It feels great to be back competing, its a totally different kind of mentality to get into and it shows me where I am at as far as fitness goes,” Schumann said after the competition. “Competing at home is always great. … There is so much more support than at competitions away from home and this helps to build more motivation.”
Taking the U.S. championship in Nordic combined was Taylor Fletcher, competing with Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Fletcher, who trains in Park City, sat in fourth place after the ski jumping but climbed to first with a cross-country skiing time of 12:34.
“I’m getting a little older so it’s nice to show that I can still have better performances and compete with the younger kids a little bit,” Fletcher said. “At the same time, it’s important for me and a goal of mine to be one of the better skiers in the world and having a national title is a stepping stone towards becoming better.”
Nathaniel Mah, of Altius Nordic Ski Club in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, who was in first place following the ski jumping with a 121.5 total, took second overall after finishing fifth in the cross-country portion. Taking third overall was Grant Andrews, competing for Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, after he finished second in the ski jumping and fourth in cross-country.
The women’s side was a literal two-person race.
The race’s only two entrants, Annika Malacinski and Tess Arnone, both of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, finished first and second respectively in the U.S. championship in Nordic combined.
Malacinski was in first place with a 67 total before running away with the victory in the cross-country portion, finishing in a time of 20:05. Arnone had a 61 total following the ski jumping before crossing the finish line at 22:03.
Kevin Bickner earned his third national title when he took home gold in the U.S. championship in ski jumping at the Springer Tournee. Bickner, jumping for Norge Ski Club from Fox River Grove, Illinois, finished with jumps of 135.2 and 131.5 for a 266.7 total, two meters ahead of second place finisher McKenzie Boyd-Clowes of Altius Nordic Ski Club.
“I was coming off a not so great season this last year so I had to fix a lot of things this summer. … I think that coming out and winning this title shows that I’ve made a lot of progress and that I’m heading in the right direction for the winter season,” Bickner said. “I was definitely worried about McKenzie because he’s usually the one to challenge me the most but also Casey (Larson) showed that he’s right up there with us.”
On the women’s side, Nina Lussi of the New York Ski Educational Foundation, overcame an injury on the same competition hill a while ago to run away with U.S. championship — finishing 12.5 meters ahead of Anna Hoffmann. Lussi was the only competitor to jump over 100 meters on both attempts, with a competition high of 107 meters. Only Hoffmann recorded a 100+ meter jump, going for 100.5 meters on her first attempt.
“I figured since I’ve been training on it (the hill) the last few weeks, that I had put that behind me, but I tweaked my knee training on the large hill a few days ago so I wasn’t feeling great,” Hoffmann said. “In the end, I can feel my body so I had to have a little self talk, and I said to myself that I was going to jump and be aggressive so I took it and went with it.”
Schumann placed fourth in the U.S. championship Nordic combined event this past weekend — taking third place in the cross-country portion and third in the ski jumping. While the result is good, and Schumann is pleased, he had different goals in mind: the Junior World Championships.
Being 19 years old, this is the final year that Schumann can compete in the FIS Nordic Junior World Ski Championships and he’s now doing everything he can to make sure he’s at peak performance level when it rolls around. The event takes place in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, from Feb. 28 to March 8 in 2020.
“I want to win World Juniors over in Germany because it’s what I’ll have been working towards all year,” Schumann said. “I feel good about where I’m going in the sport. … After a year off and with some new experiences, I am more motivated than ever to get stronger and fight my way to the top.”
Schumann jumped 106.5 meters before completing the cross-country portion with a time of 13 minutes, 54 seconds.
“If there’s no pain when you’re doing cross-country, you’re not doing it right. … But there’s a lot of burning, usually your legs are pretty noodle and your lungs kind of hurt a little bit,” Schumann said. “There’s body pain where it doesn’t want to work anymore and kind of hard to function, but you have to just keep going and that’s what I did.”
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