Steamboat athletes named to national, junior national teams
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Annika Malacinski and Tess Arnone have matching jackets.
The bottom is gray, and the top is blue. The colors meet in the middle at diagonal white lines that form a point at the sternum. On the left chest is the Nike symbol, while on the right is the USA Nordic symbol.
Malacinski and Arnone, both Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes, are just two of three women who get to wear those jackets as part of the USA Nordic Combined National Team and two of nine current SSWSC athletes named to either the national team or the junior national team on Tuesday, Oct. 29.
“They’re amped to get the jacket,” SSWSC Nordic combined coach Karl Denney said. “We do as much as we can to educate them along the way. Yeah, you’re getting this jacket, it has USA on it. Whenever you’re wearing this on or off the snow, that’s what you’re representing. This jacket comes with some weight. It comes with a title, so you got to represent that.”
Arnone, 16, and Malacinski, 18, are joined by Tara Geraghty-Moats, 26, of Vermont, on the women’s Nordic combined national team. The age difference is pretty drastic, and Arnone said she’s a little intimidated but excited to have the opportunity to learn.
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“I like being able to train with older athletes, especially Tara,” she said. “Annika and I train together all the time, but when I get the opportunity to train with Tara, she definitely has different tactics. It’s something to chase because she’s currently one of the top women.”
Denney said Malacinski and Arnone look like “serious, international contenders this year.”
- Taylor Fletcher
- Jasper Good
- Grant Andrews
- Annika Malacinski*
- Tess Arnone*
- Decker Dean
- Annika Belshaw*
- Bennett Gamber*
- Niklas Malacinski*
- Gunnar Gilbertson*
- Alexa Brabec*
- Canden Wilkinson*
- Erik Belshaw*
Six members of the SSWSC will wear the same jackets as part of the junior national team. Canden Wilkinson, 17, and Erik Belshaw, 15, were named to the men’s ski jumping team.
Belshaw could have made the cut last year based on his results in competitions, but he was too young.
“He has been making big strides,” Denney said. “He’s looking to score some points internationally and potentially qualify for the national team as well in the next few years.”
Niklas Malacinski, 15; Bennet Gamber, 18; and Gunnar Gilbertson, 16, were named to the men’s Nordic combined junior national team.
“It’s his first year on the junior national team. He’s taken to it really well,” Denney said of Gilbertson. “He’s really taken off with his jumping, and he does a lot of aerobic sports like high school mountain biking, that’s helped him come along with cross country as well.”
Alexa Brabec, 15, is the sole member of the women’s Nordic combined junior national team.
A total of 16 athletes from eight different states were named to the junior national team. Being named to the roster allows athletes to train with their own clubs, while having the opportunity to compete at a higher level. Members are invited to training camps and international competitions such as the Continental Cup, Junior World Championships and the Youth Olympic Games.
“I would like to get to the (Youth) Olympics and Junior Worlds,” Brabec said. “I’m really hoping to make the national team this year.”
Niklas Malacinski echoed the same goals for this winter.
The 2020 Youth Olympic Games will be the first to feature a women’s Nordic combined competition. Women’s Nordic combined is not yet an Olympic sport, though, and didn’t make the cut for 2022. Arnone has her eyes on 2026, though.
“I feel like I’m young enough where if I am able to go, I’ll be at the upper age level, but I won’t be out of the age range of competing,” she said.
Denney said his athletes named to the team don’t let it get to their heads at all. However, it does drive the younger competitors to work harder.
“It’s a really big motivator for the younger kids, seeing so many of our athletes be placed onto these teams,” Denney said. “Especially junior national team. Now that the junior national team is being amped up and becoming a more solidified program, everyone’s wearing the same coats from national to junior national, it seems a little more in reach for some of the younger kids.”
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