Nordic combined events seek to fund future waves of athletes
June 20, 2013
Steamboat Springs — The United States' top Nordic combined skiers will spend the next nine months preparing to ski to glory at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but even as that process moves forward, some in the sport are looking beyond Russia.
The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has played a key role in grooming not only the current crop of U.S. Ski Team standouts but the next wave, as well. Now, an eye has turned to tomorrow's Nordic combined Olympian with a group that has organized to raise funds to further that team's training opportunities.
Citing a need for various training facility and staffing upgrades, the group is looking to pull together money for its cause, and it's playing host to a fundraiser next week.
"The goal is to put these guys on the podium," said Hans Berend, one of the event's organizers and a father to one of the hopeful skiers. "Steamboat really enjoyed the success the Nordic combined team had in 2010. That was an incredibly exciting time. We want to do that again. We have the talent but need to get the training up to the level it will take to get there."
The event begins at 5 p.m. June 28 but actually includes several days of action. First up June 28 is a wine soiree at the Yampa River Botanic Park featuring food, wine and many of the athletes serving as waiters. There also will be a silent auction with various vacation home getaways up for grabs and a heap of U.S. Ski Team memorabilia.
Tickets that night will be sold for another event to follow, a July 2 "Ski Jumping Calcutta" event at Howelsen Hill. Athletes — from the U.S. Ski Team on down — will take part, each vying for the longest jumps of the day. The hitch comes when the more experienced athletes must begin their run lower on the hill, theoretically equalizing the experience advantage. Donators can buy tickets for each athlete, essentially betting on who will come out on top.
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"The younger guys are cheaper and the older guys, more expensive," Berend said. "It's a very fun event."
It's all meant to fund four initiatives organizers see as essential to the team's future success.
The group is hoping to raise money to establish an in-season European base of operations, a place for those competing the Continental Cup to stay during the season. They have a spot in Slovenia picked out, too, a house centrally located to events in Austria and Italy.
It also is hoping to employ an expert wax technician during the season, another Nordic combined coach to help allow current coach Martin Bayer to spend more time with the squad in Europe without overloading the coaches who remain in Steamboat.
Finally, organizers want to add two pieces of training equipment. An oxygen system would allow athletes to train longer and harder in Steamboat's thin mountain air. A one-hour-per-season stint in a Utah wind tunnel, meanwhile, could offer jumpers huge insight into their flight technique.
"On a typical 90-meter jump, they're only in the air for about three seconds. There, they can be in the air for 30 minutes, and they can really work on their flight and aerodynamics," Berend said. "This group of guys, between the guys on the U.S. Ski Team's B team and the guys in the National Training Group, they're a group we think with the right exposure will be our next Olympians and hopefully the next medalists in the World Championships."
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com