Steamboat athletes take on FISU World University Games in Lake Placid
Making its triumphant return for the first time in four years, the FISU World University Games are happening in Lake Placid, New York, with two Steamboat Springs athletes representing Colorado Mountain College.
Steamboat’s Niklas Malacinski and Tess Arnone were invited to compete in the competition and posted strong results to set themselves up well for the remainder of the winter season. Malacinski’s top results include two silver medals, one bronze and a gold in the team sprint event.
Competing in the Gunderson normal hill competition on Friday, Jan. 13, Malacinski jumped to seventh and knew he had work to do in the race. Remaining calm and maintaining energy for a late push in his final sprint, Malacinski passed five athletes ahead of him and took second overall.
Two days later, Malacinski competed in the mass start competition, where he won the cross country race by 40 seconds and followed that with the second best jump in the field to earn his second silver medal of the weekend.
In the mass start, ski jumping follows the cross country race, which Malacinski said makes a big difference.
“The difference is essentially a mass start is more of a jumper’s competition,” Malacinski said. “In skiing, you can always stick onto someone and ski behind them, get the draft and relax a little more than the person in front is. In that sense, the skiing tends to be a lot closer together, so the jumping matters more. The good jumpers are going to get the advantage.”
After winning two silvers, Malacinski teamed up with American Evan Nichols for the men’s team sprint competition on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
The tandem has worked together in the past, and they have been on the Junior World Circuit since they were 15 years old.
Malacinski had lost to Sakutaro Kobayashi of Japan in each of the previous competitions, but he and Nichols finally got the edge over a strong Japanese partnership in the team sprint.
“We both knew they were going to beat us in the jumping but we can out-ski them — it’s just how much we can out-ski them in a sprint relay race since there’s not much time,” Malacinski said. “We worked perfectly together. We both were gaining time slowly each lap and then finally when we caught them, I was the anchor and was able to separate on the last hill.”
Malacinski and Nichols won the event by seven seconds.
For the women, Arnone was the sole American to compete in Nordic combined competitions. Arnone was coming off an ankle sprain, and she said it was tough to compete at her normal skill level.
“My jumping is definitely lacking more than it used to, so the Gunderson was super tough,” Arnone said. “Then going into the mass start, it’s just a little bit of a different format, and I was able to ski with a group rather than ski on my own prior to the jumping.”
Arnone raced to fourth in the mass start but ultimately fell to sixth overall after jumping.
Both Arnone and Malacinski were back in action in the mixed team event on Thursday, Jan. 19, where one athlete competes in a Nordic combined event and the other two members of the opposite gender take on a ski jumping and cross country event, respectively.
Both were on the Nordic combined leg of the competition on separate teams with Malacinski helping lead his team to third overall and Arnone’s team taking 11th.
The two will return to Steamboat for a couple weeks to recover and begin preparations for the Junior World competition in Whistler, Canada, in February.
“This hill, in my opinion, is similar to the one out in Whistler,” Arnone said. “Training in Steamboat is so different because we’re at such a high altitude. Whistler and Lake Placid are closer to sea level and the rest of Europe is closer to sea level than we are, so it just changes the jumping a little bit.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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