Steamboat ski jumpers finish second as Hoffman, Bickner qualify for Olympics
LAKE PLACID — A pair of Steamboat Springs ski jumpers were within reach of the Olympic dream Saturday but were bested by teammates from the U.S. National Ski Jump team.
After round one, Steamboat’s Decker Dean was 10 points behind Kevin Bickner.
The U.S. Olympic Trials in Lake Placid, New York, featured two rounds of jumping. Competitors earned a score based on distance and style, and were ranked on a total of two jumps.
Dean had to bring something big in round two. He pulled out a 95-meter jump and took the lead with 244 points. He was happy with the effort but knew Bickner had the ability to beat it.
“I was just waiting to see what’s going to happen. He’s probably going to do it, but I gave myself a chance after falling behind in the first round, which was disappointing,” Dean said “It’s ski jumping. Anything can happen at any point.”
The last to compete in round two, Bickner had high stakes, but he was up for the challenge. He soared 96.5 meters, the farthest jump of the day, and waited for his score. With the distance, style points similar to his last jump would seal the victory.
When the 257-point total score came up, Bickner screamed.
He had earned a spot on his second Olympic roster. Bickner, of Illinois, was the highest American men’s finisher in 2018, as he took 18th on the normal hill in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Steamboat’s Logan Sankey led the women with a jump of 88 meters after the first round. The judges awarded her 107 points, which gave her a 5.5 point lead over second-place Anna Hoffman.
Hoffman, who hails from Wisconsin, nailed her second-round jump. She flew 90.5 meters and earned a score of 113, bringing her total to 214.5 points. Sankey was last to jump in the second round.
“Up at the top of the hill, we can definitely hear the announcer and the fans. I knew Anna had done a great job,” Sankey said. “I was just trying to focus on executing what my coach and I had talked about and what I was working on.”
Sankey sent it, once again touching down at the 88-meter mark. Her score gave her a total of 214 points, just half a point behind Hoffman and half a point out of the Olympics.
“I had some good jumps and executed what I was trying to do — I’m happy with it,” Sankey said.
Hoffman will travel to her first Olympics, if the women earn an Olympic quota spot.
Right now, U.S. women don’t have a spot in the Winter Games but can earn one through Jan. 16 by competing well at the World Cup level. There is one World Cup competition left within the qualification period in Ljubno, Slovenia, the weekend of New Year’s Eve.
It’s a longshot for the women to earn a spot, but if they do it, it’ll go to Hoffman.
“It is a little bit of a tricky situation, because Anna’s the first person to go, and she deserves that based on today and her amazing performance today,” Sankey said. “So now, we all need to go out and try to earn a spot. It doesn’t matter who earns that spot. If we earn a spot, Anna gets to take it.”
Of course, Sankey is hoping to help earn more than one spot, so she can contest to go to Beijing, as well.
The men have one more spot after Bickner filled the first, but final quotas will be released Jan. 17.
Dean is one of a few competing for the spot. He finished second Saturday but has stiff competition in Casey Larson, who was third.
The final spot will be determined by a few criteria, but mostly, it comes down to who performs better on the World Cup circuit between now and Jan. 16.
Dean has many opportunities to do well, as the Four Hills Tournament commences next weekend and runs through early January across four ski jumps in Germany and Austria.
Dean said his confidence is high.
“When I perform my best, I can be right in the mix with all the best guys,” Dean said. “It’s a matter of me getting my head right, feeling good and being on. It’s going to be a really good fight, but that’s what I’m in this for, is the fight.”
(two-jump point total)
1. Anna Hoffman 214.5. 2. Logan Sankey 214. 3. Annika Belshaw 200.5. 4. Paige Jones 191. 5. Cara Larson 168.5. 6. Nina Lussi 161. 7. Rachael Haerter 138. 8. Samantha Macuga 130. Josie Johnson 119.
1. Kevin Bickner 257. 2. Decker Dean 244. 3. Casey Larson 229. 4. Patrick Gasienica 228.5. 5. Erik Belshaw 213. 6. Andrew Urlaub 210.
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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