U.S. Nordic Combined team members visit Steamboat hoping to inspire, find support
Steamboat Springs — After spending the past three weeks living, training and competing in Europe, there is no question Steamboat Springs native Ben Berend is focused on his future with the U.S. Nordic Combined team.
But this weekend, Berend will not be fine-tuning his own athletic skills, but instead, doing everything possible to inspire a group of young Nordic combined athletes who have been taking part in a camp in Steamboat.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Berend said of an Oct. 22 training session at Howlesen Hill, at which members of the U.S. Ski Team will be on hand to help coach the next generation of Nordic combined skiers. “It’s so much fun seeing the younger generation. It reminds me of the time I spent on the jumps as a kid growing up in Steamboat Springs. I think it’s important for those younger athletes to have interaction with the older athletes — to have interaction with the members of the national team.
The jumping session will take place from 10 a.m until noon on the plastic-covered jumps at Howlesen Hill. Several members of the national team, which just returned from Europe, will be on hand to offer advice and mingle with fans who come out to watch.
“There was a time when all these guys used to live in Steamboat Springs,” said Todd Wilson, Nordic director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. “They are not around as much, anymore, so we really want to take advantage of it when they are in town.”
Wilson said the Winter Sports Club will wrap up the camp Oct. 23. He said the U.S. Team members will be training Saturday morning, adding that the young jumpers will also have training sessions from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. and again from 10 a.m. until noon Sunday. It will be one of the final times this summer jumpers will be using the plastic-covered jumps.
Next week, Wilson and company plan to install the nets that hold snow on the surface during the winter.
Berend, who will open the 2016-17 season on the World Cup, said both the young jumpers and older U.S. Ski Team members will have a couple of weeks off to recover before the start of the long winter season.
“It was a really good summer,” Berend said. “I’m psyched with the way things went, and I think I have improved more than ever before. The past couple of years, I’ve felt stuck in the same place, but this summer, I’ve had breakthrough after breakthrough.”
He also notched one of the biggest finishes of his career in July, when he placed third in the National Championships. It was a highlight for the young jumper, who was thrilled to step onto the podium with a couple of athletes who have inspired him.
Steamboat’s Taylor Fletcher was on the top stair, and his brother, Bryan Fletcher was on the second at the U.S. Nordic combined National Championships.
“I grew up looking up to them … it was so cool to stand on the same podium right next to them,” Berend said.
Berend’s father, Hans Berend, is also happy his son and the other members of the national team will be in town this weekend to offer their insight and advice to the young jumpers hoping to follow in their footsteps. But, as the father of a national team member, he also understands the challenges these athletes face and is hoping the team’s visit to Steamboat will help bring financial support, as well.
He added those interested in supporting USA Nordic can visit the organization’s website at usanordic.org/who-we-are and make donations or learn more about the organization.
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