The next generation of World Cup stars will have their chance to shine at the FIS Alpine World Junior Ski Championships this week as eight American athletes head to Bansko, Bulgaria, to represent the U.S. alpine ski team.
Though the 2020 World Juniors at Narvik, Norway, were cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak, six of last year’s eight named athletes will get another shot on Pirin Mountain in three events. Headlining this year’s team are 2019 junior worlds silver medalists and FIS World Cup mainstays Ben Ritchie and AJ Hurt, both of whom have been rising in the Europa Cup and World Cup point rankings.
Hurt scored the first World Cup points of her career this season across four disciplines, after finishing sixth in the last world juniors super G. Her top World Cup finish was 18th in GS and has since scored in downhill, super G, and parallel. Hurt debuted in the World Cup at the age of 16 in Killington, Vt. Now at the age of 20, the four-year U.S. Ski Team member returns to world juniors with experience and power.
Ritchie has said his biggest emphasis this season is world juniors. Within the two weeks leading up to the event, Ritchie had his first Europa Cup win and World Cup points, both in slalom. Ritchie has yet to compete in any other discipline since U.S. nationals in November. He should come into the event with plenty of confidence, already with a second-place slalom finish at world juniors in 2019 as part of his growing portfolio of accomplishments.
New to the world junior roster is U.S. Ski Team member Allie Resnick and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Cooper Puckett. After a strong opening to her season, Resnick was invited to compete in her first World Cup in the parallel. She has since competed domestically and internationally in FIS and Europa Cup events. Joining first-year Resnick is Puckett, the only member of the world juniors team not named to the U.S. Ski Team. The 17-year-old has an impressive list of results this year on the domestic FIS circuit, winning national junior races and earning FIS podium finishes in slalom. Puckett was shocked to get the phone call while in physics class, and has since been overjoyed to represent the U.S. alpine team in Bansko.
“I was in physics class, actually, and my phone was blowing up and my connection at school was really bad,” said Puckett. “I left and I was in the hallway and I got the call and I was so happy. It was a lot of hard work early in the season to get myself in that position.”
Returning to world juniors are U.S. Ski Team members Zoe Zimmerman, Nicola Rountree-Williams, Isaiah Nelson, and Bradshaw Underhill. Zimmerman has a strong Europa Cup season under her belt, finishing top 20 in December. Rountree-Williams, Nelson, and Underhill all come with top 20 world junior finishes from last year, including Underhill’s ninth place super G finish.
Due to COVID, quotas have been halved from a normal year, where a total of 67 males and 67 athletes will represent 19 countries this year in a condensed schedule of events. The 2021 junior worlds will not include downhill, alpine combined, and team events but will feature men’s and women’s super G, giant slalom, and slalom down the same venue.
World Juniors kicks off this Wednesday with the men’s super G, followed by two consecutive days of men’s races before the women take to the stage next week.
2021 FIS ALPINE JUNIOR WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS TEAM
- AJ Hurt, Carnelian Bay, Calif.; Squaw Valley Ski Team (12/5/2000)
- Allie Resnick (Vail, Colo.; Ski & Snowboard Club Vail; 9/1/2001)
- Nicola Rountree-Williams, Edwards, Colo.; Independent/Private (7/7/2002)
- Zoe Zimmermann, Gilford, N.H.; Burke Mountain Academy (5/16/2002)
- Isaiah Nelson, Wayzata, MN.; Buck Hill Ski Racing Club (4/3/2001)
- Cooper Puckett, Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club (3/31/2003)
- Ben Ritchie, Waitsfield, Vt.; Green Mountain Valley School (9/5/2000)
- Bradshaw Underhill, Newbury, N.H.; Killington Mountain School (3/10/2000)
BANSKO 2021 COMPETITION SCHEDULE
March 3 – Men’s super-G
March 4 – Men’s giant slalom
March 5 – Men’s slalom
March 8 – Women’s super-G
March 9 – Women’s giant slalom
March 10 – Women’s slalom