Whistler, British Columbia It was a picture-perfect day at Whistler Olympic Park.
Blue sky, more than 6,400 enthusiastic fans and hundreds of cameras greeted the field of 50 of the world’s best ski jumpers Saturday. Two Americans arrived with hopes of making it into the top 30 and hopes of surprising the world with an Olympic medal. But after Saturday’s first official round in the large hill event, the only Americans to move past qualification failed to make the cut.
The Americans’ top jumper, Peter Frenette, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., narrowly missed the mark. He placed 32nd — just one spot behind Finland’s Janne Ahonen, who was the final jumper to make it into the finals. American Nicholas Alexander placed 40th, and Anders Johnson, the team’s final jumper, failed to make it out of Friday’s qualification round.
Frenette, however, wasn’t complaining after his first Olympics. The jumper, who shares the same hometown as Nordic combined skier Billy Demong, made the top 50 qualifying cut in the individual and large hill events. Alexander also qualified in the normal and large hill events, and Johnson, the final member of the American contingent, made the cut in the normal hill.
“This has been exciting and fun,” Frenette said. “It’s inspiring to see all of the U.S. athletes get medals, and hopefully the next Olympics, I’ll be right there. It played out just like I thought, but it’s exciting and has been a lot of fun.”
The American jumpers, who have not been supported by the U.S. Ski Team since the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, are dependent on sponsors, their parents and many times their own wallets for funding.
The team exceeded expectations at the 2010 Winter Olympics by qualifying skiers in the two individual events. The team will not get the opportunity to compete in the special jumping team event. To compete in that event, a country must have four jumpers at the Olympics. The Americans have just three.
“It’s my first big international competition that I’m competing in, so it’s good experience no matter what,” Frenette said.
Switzerland’s Simon Ammann won the event and wrote a little bit of history in the process. Ammann, who also won the normal hill competition, has earned four career gold medals in ski jumping. He won both the large and normal hill titles at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, and repeated the feat in 2010 at the Vancouver Olympics.
“What can I say? I was so nervous up there. This is all very nerve-racking,” Ammann said after the event. “I always have this magical force to jump far here, and that is amazing. Truly amazing.”
Poland’s Adam Malysz earned the silver, and Austria’s Gregor Schlierenzauer landed the bronze medal in the final individual special jumping event of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The final special jumping event will be the team event Monday.