USA Nordic Sport gains confidence and skills through the program, beginning the second year of Norwegian ski jumping collaboration
USA Nordic Sport and Norges Hopplandslaget agreed on a four-year ski jumping partnership in August 2022. A year later, the U.S. ski jumping team recorded its best men’s result since 1987 and its best women’s result since 2015. The two nations want to advance the sport worldwide. Silje Bråthen/Photo courtesy
Steamboat Springs Olympic ski jumper Decker Dean never imagined two years ago that he would be training alongside Norway’s national ski jumping team, Norges Hopplandslaget.
That changed in August 2022 when USA Nordic Sport, or USANS, announced a historic partnership with Norway, the birthplace of ski jumping.
“They’re the best in the world and I think it’s really important for a young American team like us to be here, especially because we’re trying to grow the sport in America,” Dean said. “We want ski jumping to become more popular because it’s an extreme sport, it’s fun to watch, it’s extremely popular in Europe, and once it gets to the US and people take a good look at it, they’ll see “It’s actually really cool.”
The partnership, approved by the International Ski Federation, lasted two years when USANS board members realized the team did not have world-class access to coaches, equipment and training.
The U.S. team is also limited in the number of large hills athletes can train on. According to USANS Chief Executive Officer Adam Provost, only large ski jumps in Park City and Lake Placid are available for training, with the latter having only been available in the last two years.
The collaboration between the two organizations includes training camps at world-class ski jumping facilities in both countries. More importantly, it includes access to coaches from both teams and sharing the science of the sport to advance it globally.
This past winter, the U.S. posted the best overall men’s team finish since 1987 and the best women’s finish since 2015. Provost said the group even posted its best finish since 2002 at a summer Grand Prix event last weekend.
The team performed so well, Provost said, that after a two-month break in early summer, “everyone was itching to get back,” and most of the team, including Dean, moved to Norway for a residency program.
“The biggest change in this collaboration, and what I have benefited from the most, is the work we have done on the technical side of ski jumping,” said Dean. “Work out a lot in the gym before you hit the hill to really solidify the idea and make sure it’s clear. We are taking small steps to achieve the goal we want to achieve.”
Decker Dean maintains his form during his final Jumpin’ and Jammin’ jump at Howelsen Hill on July 4th. Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today
With a year under their belt, the nations hope to further improve the partnership this winter with larger staffs and more coach-focused growth. Provost said one of the most helpful aspects was Norway’s open policy. They offer an answer and explanation to every question, which he believes is the best learning opportunity for growth.
Both on and off the mound, culture was a major focus between the two nations. Dean is actively living in Norway with a member of the Norwegian team and the groups have come together as a whole to form a unified team.
“Norway really took us under their wing last year,” Provost said. “We traveled with them, we trained with them. When the world champion was crowned, he asked for the team picture and it wasn’t the Norway team. It was the USA and Norway team. I thought that was very unique.”
The achievements of last winter bring with them expanded goals for this winter. Dean said he has made more progress this summer than he could have imagined and hopes to be in the top 30 in the World Cup by the end of the season.
Provost believes this partnership will be the biggest thing America does for ski jumping in the next 20 years. He sees it as a transformation of what the organization does and how it will grow in the coming years.
“For us, it’s a quantum leap in terms of development,” Provost said. “We have reached a significant level and I think the most important thing is that both the men and women are having fun again. That’s the funny thing about it. We are seeing good results – we are not on the podium yet – but the results are there and confidence is a dangerous thing. The more confidence you gain, the better you will perform.”