Steamboat ski jumpers, Nordic combined skiers compete at World Junior Championships
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Junior World Championships is a high-level event at which local Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skiers and ski jumpers saw some of their toughest competition of the year.
Over the course of eight days, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes represented the U.S. in nine different events. In a field packed with talented Europeans, Decker Dean and Annika Malacinski were the top finishers among local athletes.
Dean, a Steamboat native and member of the U.S. Ski Jumping Team, has been to Junior Worlds twice before but has never earned good results.
“It’s always been kind of a rough experience for him,” said SSWSC U16/U18 ski jumping and Nordic combined head coach Karl Denney. “He’s been disqualified from the individual event before and just had a nervous, poor performance. This year finally came through for him. He ended up coming in 21st, which is a really impressive result for a young athlete because there are some really good World Cup jumpers there.”
Dean said despite suffering a shoulder injury in his World Cup debut earlier this season, he maintained his goal of wanting to be in the top 30 at Junior Worlds. In his final year eligible for the competition, he gave it everything he had.
“I didn’t think about anything super specific, just stay relaxed and didn’t let myself get in my head,” Dean said.
Not far behind him was SSWSC special jumper Erik Belshaw. At his first-ever Junior World Championships, the youngster finished 35th.
“He was struggling in training for sure, but I knew him being here with all of us older guys, seeing what to do and what goes on, I knew he could do it,” Dean said. “He pulled up and did what he needed to do as well. He didn’t get to the second round, but that’s a super impressive result for being 15 years old.”
Andrew Urlaub of Wisconsin was the highest-placing American in the men’s ski jumping event, taking 18th.
In the women’s Nordic combined competition, Malacinski was the highest performing American woman, earning 24th. Malacinski posted the 26th best jump, and she began the cross country race just behind teammate Tess Arnone, who posted the 25th best jump of the day. Even with great placement ahead of the cross country portion, Malacinski said she could have jumped better.
Through seven weeks of training and competing on the Continental Cup in Europe, Malacinski said she progressed drastically, especially with her jumping.
“I was really excited to take that to Junior Worlds, but unfortunately, I had an ankle injury a week before Junior Worlds, which kind of set me back in my training,” she said. “My jumping wasn’t where I wanted it to be because of my ankle injury, and I think I had a lot of nerves going into it. … I was really putting pressure on myself to finish as well as I could.”
Malacinski edged out Arnone by 30 seconds to be the first woman from the U.S. to cross the line in the race. SSWSC skier Alexa Brabec was in 28th, less than a minute behind Arnone.
Malacinski, 18, started ski jumping less than three years ago and has already risen to one of the highest possible levels for a woman in Nordic combined. Malacinski said her background in gymnastics was a huge help in giving her the skills and confidence she needed to succeed while ski jumping.
“I’m just really thankful for that background, because it’s given me the balance, the coordination, the flexibility, the awareness I need in the air — literally everything,” she said. “I’m so happy it’s brought me so far along and helped me progress so fast.”
Since she’s new to the sport, it was her first time competing at Junior Worlds, and she has one more year left to compete at the event before she exceeds the age limit of 19.
“For her to come in as the top American was a big deal for her,” Denney said. “It really shows you can accelerate up to a really respectable level, really quick.”
Junior World Championships
Women: 1. Jenny Nowak, GER, 14:12.3. 2. Gyda Westvold Hansen, NOR, 14:57.5. 3. Lisa Hirner, AUT, 15:03.5. 24. Annika Malacinski, USA, 19:35.4. 25. Tess Arnone, USA, 19:59.3. 28. Alexa Brabec, USA, 20:45.7.
Men: 1. Jens Luraas, Oftebro, NOR, 24:00.1. 2. Johannes Lamparter, AUT, 25:14.5. 3. Gael Blondeau, FRA, 26:05.9. 27. Niklas Malacinski, USA, 28:44.7. 29. Evan Nichols, USA, 28:48. 45. Henry Johnstone, USA, 31:08.2.
Men’s team: 1. Austria 47:23.5. 2. 2. France +35.9. 3. Norway +38.2. 13. USA (Henry Johnstone, Niklas Malacinski, Aidan Ripp, Evan Nichols) +6:48.1.
Mixed team: 1. Norway 41:15.6. 2. Germany +32.6. 3. Japan +1:02.8. 7. USA (Niklas Malacinski, Tess Arnone, Annika Malacinski, Evan Nichols) 3:29.4.
Women: 1. Marita Kramer, AUT, 238.9. 43. Paige Jones, USA, 44.6. 50. Jillian Highfill, USA, 33.1. 51. Anna Hoffmann, USA, 31.8. 52. Annika Belshaw, USA, 28.6.
Men: 1. Peter Resigner, AUT, 238.3. 18. Andrew Urlaub, USA, 189.7. 21. Decker Dean, USA, 185.7. 35. Erik Belshaw, USA, 87. 51. Greyson Scharffs, USA, 66.9.
Women’s team: 1. Austria, 800.7. 10. USA (Cara Larson, Jillian Highfill, Annika Belshaw, Paige Jones, 202.1.
Men’s team: 1. Slovenia 900.3. 10. USA (Decker Dean, Erik Belshaw, Greyson Scharffs, Andrew Urlaub), 282.5. Mixed team: 1. Austria 1023.3. 11. USA (Anna Hoffman, Decker Dean, Paige Jones, Andrew Urlaub) 370.1.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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