10 Steamboat athletes represent US at World Championships in Germany
Steamboat skiers make history in first-ever women’s Nordic combined World Championships
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Tara Geraghty-Moats used to be the sole face of women’s Nordic combined in the U.S. Just a couple of years ago, she felt pressure to progress the sport single-handedly, but now, with Steamboat Springs athletes Alexa Brabec, Annika Malacinski and Tess Arnone, Geraghty-Moats has a whole team around her.
The bright future of the sport was evident last week as the Steamboat ladies and Geraghty-Moats competed in the first-ever women’s Nordic combined World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Geraghty-Moats, a Vermonter, finished fifth in the World Championships. She was the victor in the first World Cup event for women’s Nordic combined in December.
On Saturday, Malacinski took 23rd, Brabec finished 26th and Arnone earned 28th.
“I’m really proud with how I handled worlds and how I fought in the cross-country race,” Geraghty-Moats said. “I think that I truly am happy with fifth place because of the adversity I’ve had to face this year. Given all that, I’m really happy with fifth place. It was a historical event, and I’m so happy I could share it with the young women from Steamboat.”
The team has been in Europe all winter but hasn’t had as many competitions as typical, due to the pandemic.
Geraghty-Moats wasn’t confident with where her jumping was going into the World Championships. She said she’s had less than 200 jumps this year, due to COVID-19 limitations, but also because of a lack of funding.
She was happy to see the first World Cup and World Championships happen for the sport but hopes to see more progress within the U.S. in the near future.
“When teams like Germany and Austria and Norway have four coaches for their team and a physical therapist and two wax techs, it’s becoming very very hard for the U.S. women to compete at a high level and stay competitive,” Geraghty-Moats said. “I’m hoping that will change in the coming years, because I think that’s going to be a road block for women’s Nordic combined very quickly.”
The men’s team is led by veteran Taylor Fletcher, who is competing in his sixth World Championships. The Steamboat native earned 30th in the normal hill event. Teammates Ben Loomis, Jared Shumate and Steamboat’s Jasper Good weren’t far from the top-30 qualifying line, all finishing in the top 45.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Niklas Malacinski is in his first World Championships. He didn’t start in the individual event but did compete in the team event the next day in which the men took ninth.
He may or may not get an individual start while in Germany, but he’s grateful to be there all the same.
“It’s just more experience. Even if I don’t necessarily get a start, just being in this environment where it’s extremely competitive is pretty valuable.”
‘Not satisfied’: Ski jumpers have high expectations at Worlds
Two of the ski jumpers competing in the World Championships are from Steamboat, as well.
Decker Dean, 20, is at his first Worlds and nearly qualified for finals. His jump on the normal hill was good for 33rd, just three spots away from qualifying.
“This sport is at such a high level now, especially the men, you have to have a really good jump to end up in the top 30. I had a super solid jump for myself in the individual event. I definitely wanted that top 30. I went past the K point and did everything I could, and it just didn’t work out,” he said.
He still has one more individual event on the large hill Thursday and a team event two days after that. He’s carrying confidence over from his second-place finish at a Continental Cup event on Feb. 6, and hoping to crack the top 30.
Dean has also been competing in ski flying, which is ski jumping on a larger scale. He took part in the world championships in December and earned 41st.
He’ll spend two more weekends sky flying this month and is hoping to soar even farther on the massive HS225 hills.
“It’s crazy. I did it for the first time in December, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had on a ski jump,” Dean said. “I’m looking to push the distances past the 200-meter line and get after it.”
Casey Larson was the next best American finisher in 48th. Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier Erik Belshaw is also in Germany and is hoping to get a start at his first World Championships.
Paige Jones and Steamboat’s Annika Belshaw have led the women’s ski jumping team. Jones earned 35th on Tuesday, and Belshaw was the top American placer in 37th a week earlier.
In her second World Championships appearance, Steamboat’s Logan Sankey fell short of qualifying for finals. She took 45th on Tuesday and 48th on Feb. 24.
“I am definitely a little bit disappointed with my personal performance,” she said. “I had some higher goals for myself, but it’s been a great experience with a great team, so it’s not all bad. I’m just not satisfied.”
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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