Gaining confidence and skill through the program, USA Nordic Sport begins year two of Norwegian ski jumping collaboration
Steamboat Springs Olympic ski jumper Decker Dean never would have guessed two years ago that he would be training side by side with the Norwegian national ski jumping team, Norges Hopplandslaget.
That all changed in August 2022 when USA Nordic Sport, or USANS, announced a historic partnership with Norway, the birthplace of ski jumping.
“They are the world’s best, and I think for a young American team like us, that is really important to be around, especially because we are trying to grow the sport in America,” Dean said. “We want ski jumping to be more popular because it is an extreme sport, it is fun to watch, it is extremely popular in Europe, and once it hits the U.S. and people get a close eye on it, they will see this is actually really cool.”
The partnership, which was approved by the International Ski Federation, was two years in the making when USANS board members realized the team lacked top-tier access to coaches, equipment and training.
The U.S. team is also limited in how many large hills athletes can train on. According to USANS Chief Executive Officer Adam Provost, the only large hills available for training are in Park City and Lake Placid, the latter of which just became available in the last two years.
The collaboration between the two organizations includes training camps at world-class ski jumping facilities in both nations. More importantly, it includes access to coaches from both teams and sharing the science of the sport to advance it worldwide.
This past winter, the U.S. finished with its best overall men’s team result since 1987 and the women’s best since 2015. Provost said the group even recorded its best finish since 2002 in a Summer Grand Prix event last weekend.
The team performed so well, Provost said, that everyone was “itching to get back,” after a two-month break in the early summer, and the majority of the team, including Dean, has moved to Norway for a residency program.
“Being in this cooperation, the biggest change and what I have benefited from the most is the work we put in on the technical side of ski jumping,” Dean said. “Training a lot in the gym before taking it to the hill to really solidify the idea and making sure it is clear. We take small steps at a time toward achieving the goal we want to achieve.”
With one year under their belt, the nations hope to further improve the partnership this winter with larger staffs and more coach-centric growth. Provost said one of the most helpful aspects is Norway’s open policy. They will offer an answer and explanation to any question, which he says is the best learning opportunity for growth.
Both on and off the hill, culture has been a main focus between the two nations. Dean is actively living in Norway with a member of the Norwegian team, and the groups as a whole have assimilated to become one united team.
“Norway really took us underneath their wing for this last year,” Provost said. “We traveled with them, we trained with them. When the World Cup champion was crowned, he asked for the team picture, and it wasn’t the team of Norway. It was the team of the U.S. and Norway. I thought that was very unique.”
Performances from last winter bring expanded goals for this one. Dean said he took more steps forward this summer than he could have imagined and hopes to finish top 30 in the World Cup overall by the end of the season.
Provost believes this partnership will be the biggest thing America does for ski jumping in the next 20 years. He sees it as a transformation for what the organization does and how it will grow for the years to come.
“For us, it is a quantum leap in regards to development,” Provost said. “We have jumped a significant level, and I think the big part is both the men and women are having fun again. That is the fun part about this. We are seeing good results — we are not there yet on podiums — but the results are there and confidence is a dangerous thing. The more confidence you get, the better you are going to perform.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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