USA Nordic names 7 Steamboat Springs athletes to Junior World Championships team
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Fifteen athletes were named to the USA Junior World Championships team and seven of them are from Steamboat Springs.
The team, made up of four men and four women in ski jumping along with five men and two women for Nordic combined, will travel to the FIS Nordic Junior World Championships from Jan. 20 to 27 in Lahti, Finland. Team selections were based on a series of qualifying events, including international events and world rankings through Jan. 13.
“I think it’s pretty outstanding, and every once in a while the roster will shift like that, towards one division or another,” Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club ski jumping and Nordic combined U16 and U18 head coach Karl Denney said. “But that’s a pretty strong percentage for Steamboat here, especially being represented in the special jumping.”
The championships also will feature women’s Nordic combined competition as a medal event for the first time.
Steamboat managed to grab both women’s spots in the Nordic combined competition, qualifying Tess Arnone and Annika Malacinski. Both competed at the Steamboat Springs Continental Cup, and Arnone also brings experience from a 29th placing in an exhibition event in Kandersteg, Switzerland.
Malacinski recently underwent surgery on her dislocated shoulder and will not be able to attend the competition.
“Those two girls have been doing a great job paying it forward to the next generation, too,” Denney said. “They are the first ones to get this kind of attention and have these opportunities. They’re hyping it up and keeping the younger athletes involved and inspired to keep going, showing them there’s something worth fighting for.”
Annika Belshaw joins the group of women from Steamboat as a competitor in ski jumping. Belshaw is ranked 10th in the FIS Cup standings.
“This year has been a huge year for the girls,” Denney said. “They’re growing in numbers. That affects top level, makes everyone else more inspired and excited to come to training. They feed off each other, they have a better sense of belonging if they have a big crew like the boys do.”
While Steamboat has remained a well-known breeding ground for men in Nordic combined, it has also put itself on the map for special jumping this year.
Steamboat special jumpers Decker Dean and Canden Wilkinson both come from Nordic combined backgrounds and have recently converted to special jumping. While Dean made the switch years ago, Wilkinson remained on the fence until a month ago in a competition at Lake Placid.
“As kids develop, they form these tight little groups of competitive friends, and one of those is surfacing on this level of this competition,” Denney said. “Decker and Canden most recently converted, and since I’ve been working the past four years, I’m trying to give more attention and validity to the special jumping crowd. Decker is a leader in that front.”
Both now have made their marks, earning spots on the Junior World Championships team.
Niklas Malacinski will represent Steamboat in Nordic combined. Bennett Gamber also was named a member of the team but will not be able to compete due to a concussion injury sustained during a ski jump crash.
“Typically, Steamboat is heavier on the Nordic combined side, but we’re putting up numbers everywhere.” Denney said.
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