Fluke equipment mishaps plague Steamboat ski jumpers at World Junior Championships
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Erik Belshaw was ready to go at the World Junior Championships in Lahti, Finland. The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club special jumper was at the top of the jump, with just a few people ahead of him, when the back clip of his binding broke.
The officials told him if he could repair it and return to the top of the jump before the end of the round, he could still compete. So, Belshaw darted down to ground level, got his binding replaced, then hopped in the elevator to get back up to the jump with time to spare.
However, in the elevator, he realized his other binding had a crack in it. So, he went back down and got that replaced, but when he made it to the top, the last competitor was jumping, and he was not allowed to jump.
“It’s weird because everyone breaks clips every once in a while, especially when it’s cold out like this,” SSWSC ski jumping and Nordic combined head coach Karl Denney said. “It’s just one of those things that happens, I guess.”
Belshaw’s bindings debacle was one of three wild mishaps that prevented three top ski jumpers and Nordic combined athletes from Steamboat Springs from competing in the individual event at the World Junior Championships this week.
In the women’s Nordic combined event Wednesday, Alexa Brabec was disqualified. She weighed in just underweight for her ski length. Ski length is a highly regulated aspect of ski jumping and is based on height and BMI, or body mass index. The lower an athlete’s BMI, the shorter their skis have to be. The rule is in place to promote a healthy lifestyle and discourage athletes from getting smaller and smaller and, therefore, lighter.
“She just happened to be a little dehydrated or something like that, and she was just under her legal weight for her skis. So, her skis were a hair too long,” Denney said. “We usually have them ski on skis that are a little bit too short to account for that variability in weight. She was just a little too light.”
Niklas Malacinski was also unable to compete.
The most strictly regulated piece of equipment is the suit, which is made of a foamy material and has to let a certain amount of air through it. If it holds too much air, the athlete has the ability to float more, and that’s considered illegal in the sport. The key is to hold enough air to help, while still complying with the regulations.
Last week, Malacinski got a new suit. He’s competed in it a few times and even participated in the training competition the previous day, and it passed the standards then, but on Thursday, the suit was not allowing enough air through it, so Malacinski could not compete.
“It was really, really cold today, it was just above zero degrees,” Denney said. “We think something with the cold air made it just a little more dense.”
Boot size is also looked at. Athletes cannot wear boots bigger than they need to. If they were to wear a larger boot and stuff the toe and have their foot further back in the boot, they would have a better flight position with the tips catching a little more air. For the same reason, bindings can only be so far back on the ski.
“Pretty much everything you’re wearing when you go up there is regulated,” Denney said. “Even the size of your gloves.”
For those who did compete, Junior Worlds went well.
In the women’s Nordic combined competition, Steamboat’s Annika Malacinski finished 21st, less than half a second out of the top 20. Fellow USA National Team member Tess Arnone earned 30th.
In the men’s Nordic combined, Gunnar Gilbertson took 35th. Among the ski jumpers, Annika Belshaw took 20th.
On Friday, most of the athletes will take part in the team events. Brabec and Niklas Malacinski will be back in the Nordic combined version of the event, and Erik Belshaw will be ready to go in the team ski jumping event.
“Alexa, we adjusted the length of her skis,” Denney said. “We literally chopped off some length from the tip and tail with a hand saw.”
Women’s Nordic combined
1. Gyda Westvold Hansen, Norway, 15:24.8. 2. Marte Leinan Lund, Norway, 15:24.8. 3. Lisa Hirner, Austria, 16:33.8. 21. Annika Malacinski, USA, 19:19.1. 30. Tess Arnone, USA, 22:12.6.
Men’s Nordic combined
1. Johannes Lamparter, Austria, 26:24.3. 2. Matteo Baud, France, 27:13.7. 3. Stefan Rettenegger, Austria, 27:20.2. 14. Evan Nichols, USA, 29:44.8. 32. Carter Brubaker, USA, 31:07. 35. Gunnar Gilbertson, USA, 31:41.1.
Women’s ski jumping
1. Thea Minyan Bjoerseth, Norway, 239. 2. Josephine Pagnier, France, 218.5. 3. Jernaja Brecl, Slovenia, 213. 20. Annika Belshaw, USA, 166.2. 26. Paige Jones, USA, 149.3. 42. Samantha Macuga, USA, 48.9. 44. Jillian Highfill, USA, 38.6.
Men’s ski jumping
1. Niklas Bachlinger, Austria, 263.9. 2. David Haagen, Austria, 263.3. 3. Dominik Peter, Switzerland, 261.5. 27. Andrew Urlaub, USA, 106.9. 42. Landon Lee, USA, 82.9.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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Of 44 Alpine athletes nominated for the 2021-22 U.S. Alpine Ski Teams, three hail from the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.