U.S. jumpers primed, ready to fly
THE U.S. SKI JUMPING TEAM is no longer a boys club. For the first time, there's a women's group on the team ... and both sides are looking at what they feel can be a strong season for the Americans.
Matt Keuler, a 1998 Olympian who has been coaching at Park City's National Sports Foundation since 2000, is the new men's head coach and Casey Colby, another 1998 Olympic jumper and the women's head coach when it was a club program, continues as the women's head coach now that five women have been named to the team.
"I'm excited for the season," Keuler said. He has two veteran athletes — three-time Olympian Alan Alborn, a teammate of Keuler and Colby at those '98 Olympics, and two-time Olympian Clint Jones. After preseason training in Park City and in Norway, Keuler said he was energized by what he'd seen with his former teammate and Jones.
"Al's feeling good and that's so important. His knees are feeling better and I think he'll have a good season. And Clint has been jumping well, taking a little different approach this summer, learning to relax a little more and being pretty consistent, which should pay off this winter," Keuler said.
The women's team remains one of the strongest in the world. All five women — Jessica Jerome, Lindsey Van, Alissa Johnson, Abby Hughes and Brenna Ellis — were in the top 15 a year ago in the Continental Cup standings. Van has been second overall the past two seasons, and Jerome, who led the U.S. women during early season meets in North America and Europe, is a steady top-five jumper.
"They've got a strong work ethic, and they're motivated," Colby said. "We've worked on consistency and technique, as we always do, and they're doing a good job balancing school and training. Using the ski team strength facilities have been a big plus for us, too. The girls support each other very well and have shown they can be on the podium, and contend in every meet. Lindsey and Jess have won, have been on the podium regularly over the last few years, but now the others are moving up right behind them."
The International Ski Federation has approved women's jumping as an event at the 2009 Nordic World Ski Championships, a vital step if the sport is to gain approval for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
The men's World Cup schedule kicks off Nov. 24-25 in Kuusamo, Finland. The World Championships are slated for Feb. 22 - March 4 in Sapporo, Japan.
The women resume the Continental Cup season Dec. 13-14 in Vaaler, Norway. The last meet was held in mid-August.