USA Nordic raises funds in Park City before teams depart for Europe | ParkRecord.com

USA Nordic raises funds in Park City before teams depart for Europe

Summer is not typically associated with the sports of ski jumping and Nordic combined, but USA Nordic executive director Billy Demong said there is seldom a better time for Nordic athletes and organizers to get together.

On Wednesday, Nordic combined and ski jumping clubs from Alaska to New Hampshire had come to Park City for the 20th annual Jindro Mayer Springer Tournee – a weeklong Nordic combined and ski jumping competition at the Utah Olympic Park.

"Tonight is also a good opportunity, we found, to have our annual physical fundraiser with our community, because otherwise we're just not around," he said. "Everyone's in Europe or a different part of the country (the rest of the time)."

So on Wednesday, national team athletes dressed in official polos helped transform the Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club into the USA Nordic Summer Soiree, complete with a sprawling selection of silent and live auction items, including memorabilia from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, like the USA team's jackets and iconic suede gloves.

Demong said the team was hoping to raise $600,000 for the upcoming summer Grand Prix series and training season, which would start less than two weeks after the fundraiser.

But first, the national teams would compete in the Springer Tournee and the National Championships on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Utah Olympic Park.

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Jasper Good, a Nordic combined athlete originally from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, who has lived in Park City since 2015, said the nationals are "mainly for bragging rights," though it helps prepare for the upcoming summer season.

The competition will include America's top Nordic combined and ski jumping athletes, including Olympians like Kevin Bickner, Nita Englund, Ben Loomis, and Good. Others have either retired or are taking a year off, including ski jumpers Sarah Hendrickson, who is taking a break, Abby Ringquist, who has retired, and Will Rhoads, who has also retired. Bryan Fletcher and Ben Berend of the men's Nordic combined team have also retired.

For those who have stayed on, it's back to business.

"Most athletes are heading out within a week after these competitions to go compete in Europe," Good said. "So this will be awesome to get a domestic event in before we train internationally."

For members of smaller clubs, it means a chance to compete on a larger stage, on bigger jumps, and to meet others in the sport.

Ken Ripp, a family doctor in rural Cloquet, Minnesota, and president of the Cloquet Ski Club, has a son and daughter competing on the junior national team. The 20-person team takes on jumps that top out at 40 meters, and it usually travels around the smattering of clubs dotting the Upper Midwest.

"Usually you show up at another Midwestern club and it's like, bear hugs and 'Oh, please, let us give you the world,'" he said, commenting on solidarity that the few Midwestern ski clubs share. "It's a little different coming out here because you're a little on your own."

Nevertheless, with more than 250 competitors starting at age 7 in town, including 70 from the Park City Ski and Snowboard Club, the Springer Tournee represents a great time for the younger Ripps to make new friends.

"I want them to build connections with the other kids they meet from all over the country," Ripp said. "Kids are coming from all over the U.S. to be here and to make those connections so that, if we want to go up to Alaska, we know people up there, or come back here, or go out East. And that's a part of it – making those connections. Because if not, it is a lonely, lonely sport."

Ripp said his oldest son quit the sport because he had no one in his age group to jump with.

"And it's really lonely to sit at the top of the jump without a friend," he said. "Have you been up there? Have you looked down those runs? It's a hard thing to do without a friend there to say, 'You got this; You're good.' The camaraderie is a big part."

Demong said USA Nordic was addressing that problem by starting teams at younger ages and finding elite coaches from around the world to develop them.

"Our goal is to have podiumed in every discipline – ski jumping and Nordic combined, men's and women's – by 2022, and to be medal-capable for the next (Olympic) games," he said.

He said USA Nordic is also hoping to bring World Cup tournaments back to North America – the U.S. in particular – by the 2022-2023 season.

Of course, those goals depend largely on funding, both through agreements with sponsors and through events like the Soiree.

For competition times go to utaholympiclegacy.org/event/springer-tournee/