SEEFELD IN TIROL, Austria—
Despite significant recent snowfall, the Youth Olympic Games staff managed to polish the HS 75 meter jump in Seefeld Arena in time for Saturday’s Team Jumping event—the final Nordic event of the Games.
The Canadian Team— consisting of female special jumper Taylor Henrich, male special jumper Dusty Korek and Nordic Combined skier Nathaniel Mah— managed to take advantage of the inconsistent conditions to secure a historic Bronze medal.
The team finished 8.7 points ahead of Finland, and just 11 points ahead of pre-event favorite Japan. Germany— who also handily won the morning’s Mixed Cross-Country/Biathlon Team event— displayed its massive commitment to youth Nordic development by winning Gold in the Team Jumping event with a nearly 30 point lead on Slovenia, who took Silver.
The United States team of Emilee Anderson, William Rhoads and Nordic Combined skier Colton Kissell struggled to find their best form on the hill today, placing 11th in the field of 13 teams.
Based on the results from the Individual competitions held over a week ago, Canada was considered to be a long shot for the podium. However, steady snowfall and unpredictable wind made conditions challenging for many teams. Japan —whose star female jumper Sara Takanashi dominated the Women’s Individual Jumping event by over 27 points— was a strong favorite for Gold.
Yet the grabby conditions on the inrun tracks proved to be a challenge for the Japanese, who are experimenting with very aggressive and low inrun positions. With their weight far forward on their feet before takeoff, the Japanese were depending on the tracks being iced and “free”. With the resulting snowfall playing havoc with her normal position, Takanashi jumped 57 meters on her first jump before posting a 75 meter second round jump.
With the normal jumping powerhouse nations of Japan, Norway and Austria all struggling, Canada seized the opportunity.
Canadian Team Head Coach Max Thompson explained the team’s strategy heading into the event.
“Today was all about consistency,” Thompson told FasterSkier. “It was bad conditions. The athletes were focused. We talked a lot, did immos [technique imitations] last night, immos this morning, and talked about doing nothing special. They kept things simple, basic ski jumping, and it worked.”
The Canadians started out strong, finding themselves ranked second overall after the first of two competitive rounds. A strong second jump by Calgary’s Dusty Korek helped secure Canada’s spot on the podium.
“We came into today confident, but having watched those individual guys who really put out long jumps, we knew we were the underdogs here,” Korek told FasterSkier. “We’re a close team. We’ve grown up together jumping since age six, and we’re sixteen now. We’re definitely close.”
This medal was a historic finish for Canada, who has never medaled in an Olympic Ski Jumping event. Most of all, the team was sure that this medal would help to boost the confidence of up and coming jumpers in Canada.
“As a North American thing, we seem to have this mentality that we’re just not as good as the Europeans,” Thompson explained to FasterSkier.
“These kids—Dusty, Nathaniel and Taylor—have been competing in Springer Tournee competitions in North America, and they’re super competitive fields. It’s great to see that when our athletes come to Europe and compete against Austria, Germany, Finland and Norway, it shows our kids at home that if they’re close to these athletes, they’re close to the best in the world. We can make something happen in Ski Jumping.”
And the Canadians certainly showed that today, topping off what was an undeniably successful day for North America, with two podium finishes in Nordic disciplines.
This event concludes the Nordic competitions for the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games. The final competitions of the Games will end Sunday, and the Games will conclude with the Closing Ceremonies, held in downtown Innsbruck.