Home, sweet home a rare gift for local Nordic combined athletes | SteamboatToday.com

Home, sweet home a rare gift for local Nordic combined athletes

Grant Andrews, a Steamboat Springs-raised skier on the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team, works through his training this week.
Joel Reichenberger
Friday, competition No. 1 9:30 a.m. —  Training jumping begins at Howelsen Hill HS75 jump 11 a.m. — Trial round jumping begins Noon — Competition jumping begins, one flight per athlete 6 p.m. — 10-kilometer ski race begins at Romick Rodeo Arena at Howelsen Hill 6:30 p.m. — Awards at Romick Rodeo Arena   Saturday and Sunday, competitions No. 2 and No. 3 9:30 a.m. — Trial round jumps at Howelsen Hill HS75 jump 10:30 a.m. — Competition jumping begins 2:30 p.m. — 10K cross-country ski race at Romick Rodeo Arena at Howelsen Hill 3 p.m. — Awards at Romick Rodeo Arena  

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Jasper Good fondly remembers the last time the Continental Cup came to Steamboat Springs, December of 2010.

“That was the first time my parents let me skip school for ski jumping,” he said with a laugh Wednesday afternoon. “That was the best day ever.”

Good and Ben Berend, friends who grew up right around the corner from one another in downtown Steamboat, were selected as fore jumpers for that event, and they sat at the top of the jumps on their home hill and looked wide-eyed at the international field of athletes gathered around them, waiting to follow them down the slope and off the jump.

“We thought it was so cool, seeing people from all over the world throw down on our hometown hill,” Good said.

Seven years later Good and Berend won’t be at the top of the jump clearing the way for those international athletes. They’ll be competing themselves, and they’re darn glad to be here.

The action jumps off starting at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning with jump training. Each athlete will get two opportunities to fly from the HS75 jump on the face of Howelsen Hill.

A provisional trial round of jumping will take place at 11 a.m. with the first actual competitive jumper scheduled to fly at noon.

The second half of the first day’s event, a 10-kilometer cross-country ski race, is set to start at 6 p.m. from the Romick Rodeo Arena adjacent to the jumping hill.

Thanks first to the ski jumps built on Howelsen Hill and, beyond that, to a heavy emphasis on the sport by the staff at Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Steamboat has always had a strong presence in Nordic combined. That hasn’t changed since the U.S. national team relocated to Park City more than 15 years ago, and of the eight skiers on this year’s team, more than half, five, grew up in Steamboat.

Three of those athletes will be competing in an international event on their home hill for the first time this week.

“The special part is being at home,” said Grant Andrews, the third Steamboater on the U.S. team who will be competing this weekend. “I never thought I’d be able to compete internationally at home, so this is cool.”

He said he has friends and family coming in from around the state, and he’s not alone.

For all the American skiers, the week has been full of “We can’t wait to watch!” and “Go get ‘em!”

“It’s such a fun atmosphere, so supportive, and it helps a huge amount with the confidence and in general,” Good said. “When I’m in a happy, great mood, I compete the best and it’s super easy to be in that mood when you’re in such a supportive community.”

Any athletes who make the U.S. team these days quickly moves to Park City where greater workout and training facilities await. Athletes then spend a tremendous amount of time in Europe, to be closer to the heart of the sport and where most of the world’s Nordic combined athletes train. That includes long stretches in the fall, and that’s before the competitive season, which, again, takes places almost entirely in Europe.

The United States has maintained one North American weekend of Continental Cup events, but that weekend hasn’t taken place in Steamboat since 2010, when Good and Berend were just the kids jumping before the real competitors.

Now they’re home, and they couldn’t be happier.

“It’s amazing. It’s just so different. All season we’re in a hotel room. Breakfast is at seven. Lunch is at 12. Dinner is at six. You don’t usually get to choose what you eat. You’re sharing a room with another dude all winter,” Berend said. “To be home, to have my own room and my Mom’s making dinner and it’s like, it feels wrong. It’s too good to be true.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

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