Park City, Utah Alex Glueck has glimpsed the future of Nordic combined skiing and his name is Bjoern Kircheisen.
Glueck, 19, is a member of the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team and native of Steamboat. He isn't competing in the Olympics this week, but he's watching intently and one of the athletes he's got his eye on is the 18-year-old German, Kircheisen.
Kircheisen placed a startling fifth in the Nordic combined competition Feb. 10. But Glueck and Kircheiser have met before. In fact, it was recently. Kircheisen won the Nordic combined event at the World Junior Nordic Championships in Schonach, Germany, Jan. 21 to 28, and Glueck was second.
Glueck takes some encouragement from watching Kircheisen compete at Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow, but he's not dwelling on the fact a month ago he placed second to an athlete capable of placing fifth in the Olympics.
For one thing, Kircheisen beat him by 2 minutes and 14 seconds.
"It's a confidence builder but you can only take it so far," Glueck said. "You can never say, 'This is what I would have done.'"
Instead, Glueck is focusing on competing on next year's World Cup calendar and the Winter Games planned for Italy in 2006.
Glueck's mission heading into the World Juniors was to move up to the next level of competition.
"My goal was to finish in the top eight and qualify for a World Cup slot next year," he said.
Glueck believes he has the most room to improve in ski jumping, but there are technique improvements he needs to make in cross country skiing as well. And he will become a stronger skier as he matures and gains physical strength. World Cup cross country skiers don't hit their peak until their late 20s. As a Nordic combined skier, Glueck must train carefully he can't gain too much muscle mass or he won't be able to fly off the takeoff of a ski jump.
"I'm still not developed as a skier yet," Glueck said.
Technique isn't really what brought Glueck to Park City. Instead, he's absorbing the Olympic hoopla with the large crowds and the omnipresent media.
"It's good to be here so in the future it's not a shock and I can deal with it," Gueck said.
He experienced what a racous crowd can be like in Schonach.
"The crowd in Germany loved everybody in the top 10," Glueck said. "But when they introduced me, they introduced me as the kid with the German name. There were people waving American flags and I know they weren't American."
How will Glueck handle it if he makes it to Italy in 2006?
"You've just got to handle it as another training run," Glueck said. "That's what you've got to do."