Steamboat ski jumper dislocates shoulder in World Cup debut (with video) |

Steamboat ski jumper dislocates shoulder in World Cup debut (with video)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Decker Dean sat in an ambulance in southern Poland. His shoulder felt like it was on fire. 

The Steamboat Springs native sat in the confined space, adrenaline forcing his heart to beat through his skin-tight ski suit. A Polish doctor, who spoke little English, attempted to help Dean and his ailing arm.

“He was trying to take the arm of my suit off and he tried to do it without taking the zipper off and just yanked down on the arm. My shoulder shot back up into place,” Dean said. “That’s when I freaked out. That’s when all my emotions came out. I actually got out of the ambulance I was so upset.”

The 19-year-old had just made his World Cup debut, but it did not go as planned.

When Dean, a U.S. Ski Jumping Team member, arrived in Wisla, Poland for the Friday, Nov. 22 competition, he felt confident.

“I definitely felt like I was supposed to be there, but I knew going into it I was going to see a lot of guys that I hadn’t seen before and jump against them,” he said. “I was looking at it as a really good experience but also expecting to jump well.”

What went wrong?

Dean sat on the ninth bar of the in run ahead of his first-ever jump on the Word Cup circuit. He wore a brand new blue and white suit with a white helmet that read “Steamboat” across the front. When the light turned green, he took off down the in run.

Dean said his launch lacked power because he was rushing a bit, trying to get onto his skis. He hit the landing slope at the 91.5-meter mark, not his best effort. A split second after he touched the snow, his left ski bucked to the left, twisted, and came off. The right ski soon followed as Dean slammed into the ramp, still traveling at a high rate of speed.

“Everything just stopped,” he said. “I’m falling right now. I don’t have a ski on my foot. I can’t do anything about this. Then I hit the ground and immediately my shoulder was dislocated and I knew that.”

Dean tried to brace his fall with his left arm, but he was moving so fast, his shoulder popped out of place. A few years ago, he dislocated the same shoulder, but said this was far more painful than that.

He lay on the outrun for a second, in shock with adrenaline blasting through his veins. Dean said the first thing he thought about was his brand new suit and that he had to stand up so it didn’t get wet.

That’s when he was brought to the ambulance.

“I was still in so much pain and so angry at myself and at the situation, so I took a second to myself,” he said.

Dean finds out if he needs surgery following an MRI scheduled for Thursday. If he does need surgery, he’ll return home to Steamboat Springs. If he doesn’t, he hopes to return to competing soon. Either way, he wants to be back for Junior Worlds.

‘Things were gonna be different’

Going into this season, Dean knew he would be taking a step up. He said he performed at a higher level than ever at a camp in Lillehammer, Norway last week, earning him one of two US slots at Wisla. 

His technique improved, he no longer made mistakes he frequently did in the past, and he felt stronger, both metally and physically. Even after this summer, Dean could tell he had made a change. 

“Things were gonna be different,” he said. “I would be jumping at a higher level and hopefully getting a lot of good results.”

The winter clearly won’t pan out the exact way Dean hoped, but he’s staying confident and already can’t wait to get back to what he loves. 

“I’m definitely not affected mentally by this,”  he said. “I’m still ready to throw myself off the ski jump.”

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.

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