InterviewsNewsTara Geraghty-Moats, the Undefeated Women’s Nordic Combined Pioneer

Avatar Gretchen BurkholderJanuary 10, 2019
Tara Geraghty-Moats winning the first 2018/2019 women’s nordic combined Continental Cup held in Steamboat Springs, CO. (Photo: Ben piper)

Tara Geraghty-Moats started ski jumping when she was nine years old. Fearless for sure, but all part of the multisport athlete’s mojo.

But after suffering multiple knee injuries when she was 16, Geraghty-Moats was forced to take a break from ski jumping. That hiatus was a four-year jumping drought that only served to push her into other aspects of nordic sport. During her time away from jumping, Geraghty-Moats competed in cross-country skiing and biathlon where she was highly successful.

At 19-years-old, Geraghty-Moats came back to ski jumping which she has been doing ever since. This summer, she added a well-suited endeavor to her jumping: skiing fast. The reason for this addition was the introduction of an 11 event women’s nordic combined Continental Cup.

“My goal this season is to be overall Continental Cup winner and to be on the World Championships team for ski jumping,” Geraghty-Moats said about her season’s objectives. As far as nordic combined is concerned, she is well on her way to mastering the Continental Cup series. 

Tara Geraghty Moats ski jumping World Cup in Lillehammer, NOR. (Photo: FIS Ski Jumping)

In the first race of the inaugural Women’s Summer Grand Prix in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, Geraghty-Moats ski jumped into fourth place and then skied into second place. That was the last race Geraghty-Moats didn’t win this season. She won the second race of the Grand Prix, and took home the Overall Championship title.

Geraghty-Moats has participated in five Continental Cup races so far this winter, she has won them all.

Winning every race I entered came as a real surprise,” Geraghty-Moats said. “This summer and fall I was focusing on working hard and building my nordic skiing up again after a few years off. I had no idea what to expect. I was hoping for some podiums.”

The first two races of the season took place in Steamboat Springs, Colo. at the beginning of December. In the first race, Geraghty-Moats jumped to third place, placing her seven seconds behind the leader at the start of the ski race. She had no problem making up the time, winning the race by 47.7 seconds. The following day, Geraghty-Moats jumped into fourth place, 26 seconds behind the leader. She skied a solid race and finished 40.1 seconds ahead of the next competitor. 

When asked about her favorite moment so far this season, Geraghty-Moats commented, “winning my first Continental Cup in Steamboat with my mom there. She has always supported me skiing nordic combined and is hardly ever able to come to watch me compete, so it was very special.

This season, Geraghty-Moats plans to start in all 11 of the women’s nordic combined Continental Cups scheduled. She will also be competing in a number of special jumping competitions. This past weekend, she competed in her first international nordic combine race in Otepää, Estonia where again she dominated. Now she will be heading to Japan for a ski jumping World Cup this upcoming weekend.

Tara Geraghty-Moats winning the first Continental Cup of the season in Steamboat Springs, CO. (Photo: Ben Piper)

 

Currently, Geraghty-Moats is the only women on the U.S. Nordic Combined team.

I train by myself a lot,” Geraghty-Moats said. “The men’s team is on a pretty different competition schedule so we aren’t able to train together much. I write my own cross-country program and integrate it with the ski jumping program my jumping coaches give me. It seems to be working well so far.”

Regardless of their competition schedules, Geraghty-Moats believes the US Nordic Combined Team has a strong and inclusive team dynamic.

“I’ve competed with some of the guys on the team since my jumping career started,” she said. “They are pretty much the coolest teammates ever. It’s nice they are so supportive of the developing women’s circuit.”

The outlook for a viable women’s nordic combined circuit remains uncertain. Organizations like the International Ski Federation (FIS) and USA Nordic, the NGB responsible for jumping and nordic combined in the U.S., fully support integrating women into the top level of the sport.

As raised in a recent New York Times story on the women’s nordic combined circuit, some major hurdles remain for a fully fledged women’s nordic combined division. First are the number of total participants. Second is ensuring those competitors are in fact competitive. A good problem for  Geraghty-Moats is that she remains dominant. Yet the others in her peer group are playing catch up when it comes to her skiing prowess. 

Women’s nordic combined will be included in the 2021 World Championships. There was discussion of it being included in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. However, in July, the International Olympic Committee did not include women’s nordic combined as part of the 2022 Games. The sport will have to wait until 2026 at the earliest to make an Olympic debut to put it on equal Olympic-level-footing.

Bill Demong, USA Nordic’s Executive Director, said in an Oct. 17, 2017 press release that his organization fully supports equity when it comes to developing new pathways for women to participate and excel. 

“This is an opportunity that we are fully behind”, Demong said about the first women’s U.S, National Championship in nordic combined. “We know that other nations will begin to turn on their funding and that when this becomes an Olympic event everyone will spend resources we can not match. Right now we have the opportunity and responsibility to take athletes like Tara Geraghty-Moats and Gabby Armstrong and develop them into leaders in the sport. It is our job to continue to innovate and support them so that they can lead Women’s Nordic Combined into the future with our crop of upcoming juniors.”

Geraghty-Moats remains positive. She also embraces her role as a groundbreaker. She knows stumbles will occur. With any breakthrough there are setbacks, but ultimately there is a net gain.

“I think that it will develop fairly rapidly in the next two years,” Geraghty-Moats said of women’s nordic combined.  “There are World Championship medals on the line in 2021 so I don’t expect very many countries will pass up the opportunity to support a women’s Nordic Combined team and get some hardware.”

For now, Geraghty-Moats will simply soar.

 

 

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Gretchen Burkholder

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