Steamboat skier places second in competition

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— It's been a great summer for Steamboat Springs ski jumper Clint Jones, but when the Continental Cup came to a close Sunday, he admitted to being ready for a break.

"It's will be nice to have a little time off," Jones said.

It will be a well-deserved break for the U.S. Ski Team's top special jumper.

Despite skipping the first three events of this summer's Continental Cup series, which is a step below the World Cup, Jones placed second in the final standings.

The final event of the summer jumping season came to a close in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Sunday, but not before the American team posted some of its best results in recent memory.

"We accomplished most of the program goals we set for the team this year," coach Corby Fisher said. "Now we have some momentum as we head into the winter and toward the Olympics."

As a team, the Americans had three jumpers finish in the top 20 during Saturday's Continental Cup competition.

Jones led the back with a fifth-place finish and was followed by Tommy Schwall of Steamboat in 11th and Jim Denny in 17th.

"This is the first time I've really focused on the Continental Cup," Jones said. "It was a good experience, and hopefully, I can continue to have success on the World Cup, and then we can step it up to the next level."

On Sunday, the American team had five jumpers in the top 20.

Jones led the Americans with a sixth-place finish Sunday, which secured for him a second-place overall finish behind Poland's Marcia Bachleda.

The strong finish also means the American team secured another spot for World Cup competition when the season opens in Kuusamo, Finland, on Nov. 25 and 26.

"Getting another spot was one of our biggest program goals," Fisher said.

Fisher said that when he set the goal, rules stated that a country automatically would earn an additional World Cup spot for one of its athletes if a jumper finished top-five in the overall standings for Continental Cup competition. But in the spring, the International Ski Federation, or FIS, amended the rule so that only a top-two finish would earn an additional World Cup spot for a national team member.

"It made it a hell of a lot harder, but we accomplished it," Fisher said.

Fisher said the number of World Cup spots for American jumpers for the upcoming season still hasn't been determined by the FIS, but if all goes well, Jones could have some company on the elite jumping series.

Alan Alborn, who returned from a knee injury Sunday, could start for the American team when it returns to snow. He could be joined by Schwall, who has had some top showings in recent competitions.

Fisher expects those two skiers to bounce between the World Cup and Continental Cup tours during the first part of the winter season. Several other members of the team also will compete in Continental Cup events this winter, and Fisher hopes those athletes can meet the criteria for the Olympics at that level.

Alborn, who did not jump Saturday, returned Sunday with a 13th-place finish. Fisher was encouraged by Alborn's second-round jump, for which he finished sixth.

Other top finishers in Sunday's round included Schwall, 16th; Brain Welch, 17th; and Anders Johnson, 20th.

Fisher said the team would continue to jump in Park City, Utah, through Thursday and hopes to be on snow by Nov. 10.

"We will keep physically training throughout the jumping break," Fisher said. "We will have some time to recharge a bit before the long winter, but I also want to see our guys maintain the momentum and progress form this summer."

-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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