Passing the torch: Young Steamboat skier dethrones defending Jumpin’ and Jammin’ champion
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the past two years, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club alumnus Decker Dean walked away from the Jumpin’ and Jammin’ finale as the victor.
When he was younger, Dean would dominate the older competitors, but this year, the 18-year-old was bested by an even younger skier, current SSWSC member, Erik Belshaw.
Adding to his accomplishments, the 14-year-old special jumper was 1.5 meters shy of the Howelsen Hill record during Jumpin’ and Jammin’ on Thursday, July 4.
“It’s funny because when I was as young as Erik, it was so cool. Beating the older guys, there’s no better feeling, and now it’s my turn to get beat,” Dean said. “I’m super happy for him. It’s awesome.”
Belshaw led the pack for much of the afternoon, jumping 76 meters in both the top-16 and top-8 rounds. In the final four, Belshaw was the third jumper. He traveled 72 meters, taking a narrow lead and putting the event in Dean’s hands. When his skis touched down, it was too close to call. The announcer revealed Dean’s distance, 71.5 meters, declaring Belshaw the winner.
Despite it being his shortest jump of the day, it was enough to seal the victory.
“I guess I was a little more on the line, and I wasn’t as free, but it worked out, I guess,” Belshaw said.
Skyler Amy, a 13-year-old out of Anchorage, Alaska, took third with a final-round jump of 70.5 meters.
“This is my hometown, my home hill. I just recently moved to Park City (Utah), but I still love nothing more than coming home and jumping here, no matter the result,” Dean said. “It’s always a good crowd, awesome environment.”
A day earlier, competitors jumped Howelsen as part of a Nordic combined event. Distances determined starting positions for the roller ski race that took place before the parade on Lincoln Ave.
Despite starting the 3-kilometer race in third, 14 seconds behind senior men’s leader Grant Andrews, Olympian Taylor Fletcher finished first. He crossed the finish line with his hands raised, prompting loud cheers from spectators near the finish line where Lincoln meets Eighth Street.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s always a good time to come home and be in front of the crowd, a lot of friends in the crowd and family,” Fletcher said. “To be able to grab the victory in front of the hometown is always special.
Fletcher, a Steamboat Springs native and former SSWSC member, has competed in the Jumpin’ and Jammin’ Nordic combined event 14 times, winning three or four times to his knowledge.
The 29-year-old has competed in the past three Winter Olympics but is unsure if he’ll be Beijing bound in 2022.
“I’m the old guy on the team now. There comes a point in time you need to move on, and I’m getting close to that. I’m looking at a five-year plan and evaluating the options,” Fletcher said. “I can ski my whole life if I could, but financially, you got to find a way to make it work.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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