Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ski Jumping in Lake Placid: For the Love of Flying

Karl Schulz & Grand Pa“I really like the sensation of flying through the air,” said Will Rhoads, winner of the Art Devlin Cup. “There is nothing better than having a really good jump and having the feeling you are never going to come down.”

Rhoads was in Lake Placid for the U.S. Ski Jumping Cup, held on the 90 meter at Intervale on Wednesday, February 12 that included a Juniors and Open class. In addition, he an a number of the competitors were in the running for the Art Devlin Cup that combines the results of three meets, the US Cup, the Flaming Leaves, and the July 4th competition. The U.S. Cup was the next to last of nine meets held across the country with the final scheduled for Park City, Utah.

While the twin towers on the 90 and 120 (aka 100 HS and 134 HS) jumps in Placid remain icons of the village and the most dramatic emblem of the 1980 Games, they are sadly out of date and the 120 no longer meets FIS regulations. “Jumps are being designed flatter to make it harder to jump further,” said Blake Hughes, assistant coach for the US Ski Jumping team. “Because of changes in the equipment and the way the sport has progressed jumping here is easier than in Sochi.”

“In Park City we recruit through after school programs,” continued Hughes. “In Steamboat ski jumping is part of their culture. The challenge is that there are so many more sports coming in like slope style and boarding, there are so many more options. I think we need to work together to create more national exposure here in the States to push the sport because now everyone wants to be the next Shaun White or Ted Ligety. We need them to want to be the next Peter Frenette.”

Good news is that the sport is attracting more women. Women have long been active in the sport, indeed in my youth Sandra Vivitsky made national news appearing on popular TV panel show ‘What’s My Line” as the then only American woman ski jumper.

Luke, Schultz, Livreri“Jumping used to be a dead end street for women,” said Canadian FIS judge Kim Fripp. “The only reason they were doing it is because they just loved going off that jump. It was do it until you get tired of it and then go home, but now that they have included the sport in the Olympics you will see many more women entering, and having future opportunities as coaches, trainers, judges and all the rest.”

“Women have been participating in a big way for the past decade or so,” said Hughes. “I am happy the way it is progressing, it is very competitive and the level is definitely on the rise as there are a lot of young girls coming into the sport and even more behind them. Just having women in the Olympics is going to stimulate so many more girls to enter into the sport.”

“Jumping is a really fun sport and a really tight knit community across the country and the world,” said Evan Bliss, NYSEF’s head jumping coach. “You get to travel from a young age around the east coast, which is fun. You get to see the rest of the country when you grow up and get better, and hopefully you will get to see the rest of the world. You will probably make a lot of great friends along the way that will be friends for the rest of your life.”

“It is great being at any of the venues, but it is special to be here,” said former Olympian Jay Rand, now director of NYSEF. “I was the manager here for fifteen years from right after the Olympics. I jumped here. I was the first jumper on the big hill, the 120, and the greats like Art Devlin, Art Tokle, and my father all jumped here on the 1932 Olympic hill, and here we are on a beautiful day. You couldn’t ask for any better. And this is a USA Cup. Larry Stone is here, and he is still coaching the younger generations.”

“He coached both you and me as a matter of fact,” I said.

“Yes, at Northwood School,” said Jay. “I was out on the old 10th Mountain skis with you.”

“Yes, complaining all the way.”

“I preferred gravity and being in the air,” said Jay.

“We are in the process of building up our numbers of jumpers so we are having more kids moving up the ladder to ski in this level of a meet,” said head of the hill and jumping coach Larry Stone. “In order to attract the meets we need to upgrade the facilities because now they are now beginning to fall into the area of an older facility. We are able to keep the winter profile at an international level through building up snow but the summer facility is out of compliance with the modern profile. Jumping is now a year round sport, and it has been for a long time, thirty years, more actually.”

“My son David was a jumper and I got into volunteering through him,” said Woods McCahill.  “You know the kids and that’s what did it. He started when he was six. Fortunately for him he has a Finnish grandmother and a Finnish mother and they thought it was very appropriate for him to jump. They learn to be responsible. They can’t go off this and be horsing around. It was a great sport for my kid. I am glad he did it. If there was a powder day at Whiteface and he had the choice he’d go ski jumping. They are all like that. Nearly all are good alpine skiers but when they could jump, they’d jump. He thought the greatest six seconds you could spend was flying off the 120.”

Lamb, Glasder, Sandell“I love ski jumping,” said Art Lussi, the grandson of a former jumper and father of three jumpers including Nini one of the leading US women jumpers who just missed going to Sochi. “It’s been a fun thing for the kids to grow up doing. They can jump after school. My grandfather [skating coach Gus Lussi] jumped in high school, but he got hurt so he switched to figure skating. I did not jump. I was terrified. I went out for a Junior Jumper program just to ski the outrun and I was terrified. I said, ‘No thanks, I am not doing this.’ I stuck to alpine skiing. I am supportive of any outdoor activity, that’s the beauty of living in this region, and so I was supportive of my kids wanting to take up jumping. They had Larry Stone as the coach at that time and a nice group of friends who were jumping. All three of my kids jump.”

“I think it is absolutely great that my grandson Karl is a jumper,” said Armond Moquin.

“I’m thrilled. I never jumped. I like to keep my feet on the ground. He really enjoys it. I hope he does well and I hope he keeps going. I told him he needs to make the next Olympic Games. He just turned 16 so he has plenty of time, he could make two or three, maybe four. You never know, as long as the interest stays there.”

“It feels stellar to be the winner of my division,” said Landon Livreri of Lake Placid, who won the junior division.  “I have been jumping fours years. I saw a flier at the Olympic training center and decided to try out. I like the flying.”

“Lake Placid is a special place because a lot of the world is putting a lot of money into just the same hills really and here you have the hills from the 1980 Olympics,” said Will Rhoads. “It’s a really different feeling. It favors the flier.”

Young people wishing to try out for the sport of ski jumping may contact NYSEF, the New York Ski Education Foundation, or  if wishing to combine that with a college preparatory academic experience Northwood School or the National Sports Academy.

Photos, from above: Kark  Schultz with his grandfather Armond Moquin; Luke Daniels (silver), Karl Schultz (bronze) and Landon Livreri (gold), winners of the Junior Division; and Chris Lamb (silver), Michael Glasder (gold), and Jonas Sandell (bronze) winners of the Open Division.

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Naj Wikoff is an artist who founded Creative Healing Connections, the Lake Placid Institute, and co-founded the Adirondack Film Society-Lake Placid Film Forum.A two-time Fulbright Senior Scholar, Wikoff has served as president of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, director of arts and healing at the C. Everett Koop Institute, Dartmouth Medical School, and director of Arts and Productions for the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Wikoff also covers Adirondack community culture events for the Lake Placid News.

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