By Chris Kwiecinski
Three of the four members on the U.S. Olympic ski-jumping team hail from Illinois’ lone ski-jumping club, and have made history for their training club in the process.
U.S. Ski and Snowboard announced on January 25 Wauconda’s Kevin Bickner and Barrington’s Casey Larson will join Cary’s Michael Glasder on the 2018 Olympic team, marking the first ski jumpers from the northwest-suburban Norge Ski Club to make the Olympics.
Park City, Utah, native Will Rhoads was the fourth and final ski jumper to make the Olympic team.
Bickner, Larson and Glasder all trained at Norge – pronounced nor-gee – in Fox River Grove. Norge has been a breeding ground for ski jumpers in the Midwest since 1905, but had gone 113 years without an Olympian.
Glasder won the Olympic trials in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Dec. 31, and has officially been on the team for almost a month while Bickner and Larson had to wait for official confirmation.
Bickner finished second at the Olympic trials. However, he never worried that his spot on the 2018 Olympic team was in jeopardy, saying he was confident he’d receive an eventual nomination based on his International Ski Federation (FIS) World Cup standing.
The FIS and U.S. Ski and Snowboard base nominations for non-Olympic qualifiers on an individual ski jumper’s finishes at World Cup circuit events.
“It makes competing up until the Olympics much easier,” Bickner said. “I can focus on my result at the world cup rather than worrying about trying to just make a team.”
Scott Smith, who coached Bickner and Larson at Norge, and a spokesman for U.S. Ski and Snowboard also had no qualms about Bickner’s Olympic stats.
Smith wasn’t worried, either, saying he’d “bet my last dollar” on Bickner’s making the team and acknowledged the final spot would come down to Larson and A.J. Brown, another Norge ski jumper.
Larson edged Brown for the final Olympic spot by recording two top-20 finishes at a World Cup event in Erzurum, Turkey. This year’s circuit began in November 2017, spans 22 different events and will end in March.
“We don’t earn spots for ourselves until the start of this winter,” Bickner said. “In November, everyone was kind of even and we all had to have good results since then to claim our spots.”
Smith, who has coached at Norge, which is Norwegian for Norway, for 23 years and coached the trio of Norge ski jumpers in the 2018 Winter Games, narrowly missed the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary as a ski jumper.
“It’s hard to explain, but it’s an awesome feeling,” Smith said of his former students making the Olympic team. “You spent so much time with these guys, and now they’re going to the Olympics.”
The ski-jumping team will compete in a qualifying round for the normal hill jump on February 8, and qualifying jumpers will advance to the medal round on February 10.