U.S. jumper continues strong summer
September 6, 2016
American Kevin Bickner (Wauconda, Illinois) soared to one of his best performances ever last Sunday, taking the first-round lead and holding on for a career-best seventh in a FIS Ski Jumping Summer Grand Prix on the Olympic jumps in Hakuba, Japan. Japan’s Taku Takeuchi took the win after finishing second Saturday on the HS131 meter hill.
Bickner, who great up skiing in Chicago’s Norge Ski Club, soared 135.0 meters on his first jump to take the lead over Takeuchi. Bickner’s towering jump came within one meter of the hill record of 136.0 meters held by Swiss Olympic champion Simon Amman. It boosted him into 16th place in the Summer Grand Prix standings, despite competing in only three of the six events so far.
“It was a bit surprising considering I don’t feel as comfortable on this hill,” laughed Bickner after the competition. “But I had a great jump in the right conditions and was able to make the most of it. I think getting a new hill record would’ve been very exciting and so getting so close to that distance meant a lot for me. Now I know I’m capable of going just as far as the top guys.”
With two Grand Prix weekends under his belt, Bickner is starting to feel the confidence that is so important in athletics.
“I don’t think I’ve really changed much in the way I’ve been training from last year to this year but I was able to figure some important things out on the hill and I think when a lot of little things clicked, it added up and made a huge difference,” he said. “I made some slight changes to my form this summer and it’s obviously worked in my favor so far.”
Four events remain in the Grand Prix, with Bickner planning to compete in the final two events Oct. 1-2 at Hinzenbach, Austria, and Klingenthal, Germany. He is not presently expected to compete in the Sept. 10-11 events in Chaikovsky, Russia, but is looking forward to being in the field Oct. 9 for the U.S. Ski Jumping Championships in Lake Placid, New York.
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The FIS Summer Grand Prix features most of the top World Cup ski jumpers. Bickner’s performances have ranked as the best for Americans since Clint Jones finished second on the tour in the fall of 2002.
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