Huge crowds, big jumps, fast skiers deliver on Fourth in Steamboat
July 4, 2017
Hundreds of onlookers packed into the flats beneath the Howelsen Hill ski jumps for the early rounds of Tuesday's Fourth of July ski jumping extravaganza in Steamboat Springs, and even though the crowds wilted later in the hot afternoon, plenty remained as the speakers blasted and Steamboat Springs-born U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team member Jasper Good slid out onto the bar high on Howelsen's biggest all-season ski jump.
He said he could see the wind, and he waited for just the right gust, then kicked away, sliding down and off the ramp and into the air.
That wind carried him high, and he flew over the jump's knoll high, higher than maybe any other skier had in the entire five days of ski jumping that preceded Tuesday's Fourth of July finale event.
That wasn't lost on the crowd, which released an audible gasp, and it wasn't lost on Good, who's eyes widened as he soared.
He was the final jumper of the afternoon — the last skier with a chance to unseat long-time friend and teammate Ben Berend in the Jumpin' and Jammin' elimination jump competition.
The announcer had boomed the stakes just before Good had started down, and it stuck with him even as he flew — more than $800 in cash, a jackpot collected from those fans who'd packed into see the signature Steamboat event.
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Halfway through a monster jump, it was tantalizingly close.
"I'm either going to win," Good said, recalling his mid-flight thoughts, "or I'm going to crash."
He crashed, falling back on his skis and skidding to a stop at the bottom of the jump, quickly popping up and greeting his friends, who rushed to his side, with a warm grin.
Big, impactful, life-altering competitions await this fall and winter as Good, Berend and the rest of the top U.S. Nordic combined athletes battle to secure spots on the U.S. Olympic Team.
This wasn't one of those competitions, however, and even defeated, Good was able to appreciate that as he slid to a stop.
Berend went on to win the event, which proved well balanced for the wide range of skiers who participated. Niklas Malacinski, a young Steamboat skier competing in the U18 division, placed second. Annika Belshaw, another young Steamboat competing in the senior women's class, was third.
"We were jumping on the same level and having a blast dueling with each other," Good said of his battle with Berend. "I was so close to landing it. We were so psyched with the crowd we had today. It was awesome."
That jump, and that event, capped a day that also began with a big skiing performance in front of a huge crowd.
The first one came from U.S. team member Bryan Fletcher, who held on to win the morning's 3-kilometer cross-country ski race that wrapped up a Nordic combined competition, which started Monday.
Good was the first to start that race, but Fletcher started just three seconds later and quickly closed gap. Those two led together for much of the race, joined eventually by teammate Adam Loomis.
Fletcher had the legs to pull away late, however.
"I skied a really tactically smart race," Fletcher said. "I went out with the intent to push the space and also have some time to recover so I could contend for the final sprint. I skied it well, and when I got to the last corner, I knew it was all out from there. I was able to break away and take the victory."
Loomis was second and Good third.