FILE UNDER -- Nordic

Behind the scenes, there's plenty of action at Continental Cup jumping

Behind the scenes, there’s plenty of action at Continental Cup jumpingPARK CITY, Utah – There was a lot to see Saturday at Utah Olympic Park besides pre-Olympic women jumpers — if you knew where to look.

For instance, a near-panic of just about everyone at the start when German jumper Ulrika Graessler realized she had left her bib in the far-away locker room. Without it, she could not jump.

Organizer’s radios squawked constantly. “Bib nine, it’s bib nine.” “Where is it again?” “By the blue bag on the table, HURRY!” “We’ll hold, and run some water.” “OK, now we’ll run some forejumpers” “GOT IT!” “She’s a long ways off yet, there’s time.” “This is the last forejumper.” “HURRY!”

A blue pickup came speeding up the dirt road that winds to the top of the jumps, tires squealing on the curves. The German coach, standing with the others on the coaches platform, waved his hands, as if urging them on. His body slumped in relief.

Bib nine must have been a lucky number for Graessler, because the panic didn’t get to her, and that’s where she ended up — in ninth place.

But not every jumper was so lucky.

Sliding to a stop on grass after a 65 mile-an-hour sail through the hot, dry air isn’t always risk free. That’s why Lisa Demitz of Italy spent the weekend watching, instead of competing in, the historic first woman’s jumping contest since the recent FIS recognition of the sport.

Saturday, she said, “I did not expect to stop so quick,” using one hand to shake her splinted broken wrist like it was a bad puppy.

The crowd of spectators watching the women land their jumps more than over 90 meters for the top women, in the 80s for those in the middle of the pack — had no idea why the women squatted down as soon as they skied off the shredded plastic of the jump and hit the grass.

Summer jumpers learn to do that quick. The near-flat shovel of jumping skis can dig in if the skier doesn’t sit quick, getting those tips up.

There should be a Jumbotron trained on the coaches standing on their special platform just across from the take-off. As athletes lift off, they can tell the outcome. Anette Sagen was still in the air when the Norwegian coach began pumping his fists; the other coaches began slapping him on the shoulders and back before she came to a stop. But Sagen came in second by one point.

That same Norge coach nervously smoked two cigarettes with the Austrian coach while waiting for Saturday’s second round to start. But the Euros were polite. They did not stand up on the platform with the rest of the coaches to light up. Instead, they went down to the ground, where the smoke drifted up to the other coaches.

The coaches are the ones who give the signal to the starter to tell their athlete to go.

Most of the coaches hold up a small version of their country’s flag, and drop it to signal the starter. Not Casey Colby of the United States. His signal is distinctive — a piercingly loud whistle. It always makes some of the other coaches wince.

The coaches are not allowed at the start, but Lindsay Van still got some pre-jump coaching for the final round. As she passed the coach’s platform while riding the lift to the top of the jump, Colby shouted out instructions and critiques of her previous jump.

It must have helped. Van moved up three places to finish 10th.

Avery Ardovino also moved up from Friday to finish 15th on Saturday. In the finish area, her mother Dawn was so happy, she was almost bouncing. Ardovino, just 14 years old, was the dark-horse star of the entire competition. She was the sixth American on Friday, moving into fifth on Saturday; a completely unexpected result as far as the Europeans were concerned. At the awards ceremony, Ardovino seemed in a daze, as if in the middle of a dream — a dream come true.

Winner Juliana Seyfahrt admitted that she prayed before her start — to the wind gods. “They were happy on me today,” she said.

Peter Jerome was the medal presenter to the top six women. As he hung the medal around the neck of fourth-place jumper Jessica, she made the crowd laugh by saying, “Thanks, Dad.”

Other awards were presented by two women who know the suspense of waiting for Olympic inclusion. Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming, who won silver for women’s bobsled in Torino, say they will never forget the day it was announced that women’s bobsled would debut in the 2002 Games.

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