Kuusamo: Jumping, NC seasons kick off
KUUSAMO, Finland — The ski jumping and nordic combined World Cup seasons begin this weekend with temperatures expected to be more balmy than in recent sub-freezing season openers. Jumping has night events Friday and Saturday while the combiners will compete during the day Saturday and Sunday in Kuusamo's self-styled "Nordic Opening" program.
"It's been kinda crazy weather. Even northern Europe has not had the cold and the snow," combined head coach Lasse Ottesen said, referring to the unseasonally warm weather in central Europe which forced cancellation of the opening alpine races in Austria and is threatening other sites. "We've been training in Rovaniemi [Finland] and that was good ... north of the Polar [Arctic] Circle and some good snow.
"We were going to spend a day and a half, but we stayed there and had three good days of jumping. Still, this is just the start of jumping on snow for us," he said.
Former sprint world champion Johnny Spillane and Bill Demong are the lone American skiers in the opening stages of the World Cup season. Everyone else is training in the United States for the first three events of the World Cup-B schedule — Dec. 9-10 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado; Dec. 15-16 in Park City and Soldier Hollow, Utah; and Dec. 20-21 in Lake Placid, New York.
"Bill's off to a good start, stable on the hill and his cross-country is the best I've seen," Ottesen said. Spillane, coming back from shoulder reconstruction in the spring, "is back up there. He's had no trouble with the shoulder and he's getting stronger. Johnny's doing well with his cross-country after a good summer of training. I think they both could be top 10 this weekend, but we'll be patient to see them keep moving forward each time."
The two-man squad is the smallest the U.S. Ski Team has sent to the World Cup since the end of the 1990s. However, the retirements of Todd Lodwick and Carl Van Loan plus the decision to have A team skiers Brett and Eric Camerota start the season on World Cup-B reduced the team. "We're looking to have the twins up on the World Cup for the next period after the new year," Ottesen said, "but starting at home gives them a chance to build confidence by getting some good results, and then have them move up. And maybe someone else will move up with them. We'll see that's mostly a young group and they need experience on the international level."
In jumping, Alan Alborn is in Kuusamo for the start after training with the Norwegian team in recent weeks. He plans to jump in the first two World Cup weekends and then join coach Mike Keuler and Clint Jones on the Continental Cup circuit.
In a related announcement, the International Ski Federation announced the World Cup events set for Dec. 2-3 in Trondheim, Norway, had been shifted to Lillehammer, Norway — the 1994 Olympic site, because of poor snow conditions.