Nordic combined, ski jumping U.S. Championships kick off pre-Olympic season |

Nordic combined, ski jumping U.S. Championships kick off pre-Olympic season

Steamboat Springs jumper Erik Belshaw soars to a title at the USA Nordic Junior Championships.

PARK CITY, UTAH — The Nordic combined and ski jumping U.S. National Championships are this weekend in Park City, Utah. It’s a little odd for a winter sport’s national championship to be held in the summer, but it’s the only time that all four national teams and younger athletes could get together at one time. For that reason, the event and the Springer Tournee leading up to it are special to Team USA.

Not only do the men’s and women’s ski jumping and Nordic combined teams gather in Park City for the week, but so do all the young ski jumpers in the nation.

“The most special part about Springer Tournee and nationals is we get to interact with the younger kids more than normal,” said Steamboat Springs native and Nordic combined national team member Grant Andrews. “We had a mentor day with some of the younger kids anywhere from 9 to 15 years old. We helped coach those kids and mentor them. That’s always special. I know, as a kid I always looked up to the national team guys. It’s good to give back.”

On Tuesday, the national team members spent a few hours coaching and training with U16 athletes, bringing the future and present of the sport together for a morning.

The younger athletes compete in the Springer Tournee ahead of the U.S. Championships. The National Championships don’t actually mean much in the grand scheme of the season.

“If you win U.S. Nationals, you get the title of U.S. Champion, which is great,” Andrews said. “The actual competition doesn’t mean anything for any other competition going forward this year.”

As far as leading up to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, that title doesn’t get anyone very far.

“This competition, it doesn’t matter for individual qualifying,” said Steamboat Springs native and women’s ski jumping national team member Logan Sankey. “Winning this event doesn’t put you any closer to making the Olympics. It is a good way to gauge where you stand in the team, and it’s a chance to perform well on home turf before we head over for the rest of the year.”

Steamboat's own Logan Sankey and the rest of the women's national ski jumping team will take part in U.S. National Championships this weekend in Park City, Utah. It is the next benchmark in a season that will determine who competes in the Beijing 2022 Olympics. (File Photo/ Joel Reichenberger)

The U.S. Championships is still one of the only summer competitions leading up to the Olympic year. It’ll serve as a benchmark for national team members before they head to Europe to start their fall season.

Sankey is leaving for Europe on Aug. 2. Others will follow soon after. The summer and fall are filled with Grand Prix competitions, which mean more for women ski jumpers as they try to earn Olympic spots for American women.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how far our team can push our limits and expand on the good foundation we built to catapult us into higher rankings on the international stage,” Sankey said. “I think we have a really good group of women, and I’m looking forward to competing out there as a team.”

As for Nordic combined men, they’ll look to use the Grand Prix’s to see where they stand and prove who deserves the first World Cup starts of the season.

When the World Cup and Continental Cup circuits begin in November, that’s when the real competition begins.

Important dates

July 26 to 31: U.S. National Championships, Park City, Utah

Dec. 24 and 25: Olympic Trials, Lake Placid, New York

Feb. 4-20: Olympic Games, Beijing, China

Feb. 22-27: Junior National Championships, Salisbury, Connecticut

Feb. 28 to March 6: Junior World Championships, Zakopane, Poland

“Every single competition up until the end of January, when the Olympic qualification period ends, is super important,” Andrews said. “Every single World Cup, every single (Continental Cup), all of that matters to get yourself a spot on the Olympic team.”

The Olympic qualifiers in Lake Placid on Dec. 24 and 25 will play a huge role in determining who will make the cut, but the entire season will be taken into consideration.

“I’m really excited about the Olympics, especially now that I’m watching the summer Olympics only six months before the winter Olympics happen,” Andrews said. “The opening ceremonies at the summer Olympics actually gave me chills. I got really excited. This would be my first Olympics if I’m able to qualify.”

Steamboat Springs native Grant Andrews and the national Nordic combined and ski jumping teams will compete in U.S. National Championships in Park City, Utah, the next benchmark in a season that will determine who will compete in the Beijing 2022 Olympics. (File Photo/Joel Reichenberger)

For Nordic combined women, like Tess Arnone, this winter will be like any other. Nordic combined is the only winter Olympic sport in which women cannot compete. That is expected to change at the Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Games. But until then, there is no Olympic qualifier for the Nordic combined women on Team USA.

Arnone and fellow Steamboat-raised national team members Annika Malacinski and Alexa Brabec will use this winter to prove that the sport is worthy of an Olympic debut.

Arnone is hoping to spend a little more time focusing on being a senior in high school but is still excited to get back to competing. She’s most looking forward to the Continental Cup American tour that will spend two days in Park City, two days in Whistler, Canada, and two days in Lake Placid in late March. That event will conclude the year, whereas the U.S. Championships this weekend marks the very beginning.

“It’s about getting back into the game before we head into the fall and the competitions,” Arnone said.

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