With Ski Jumping In The Books At The Winter Olympics , Team USA Has Hope For The Future
by Lisa Costantini
Decker Dean competes during the men's large hill individual trial round during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 Feb. 12, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — And then there were five.
Not long after Team USA announced the 222 athletes heading to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 — including two-time Olympians Kevin Bickner and Casey Larson and first-timer Patrick Gasienica — Anna Hoffman got called up to join her teammates in China.
The 21-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin, was the top U.S. woman at the Olympic ski jumping trials but had to wait to see if another quota spot would open up for the U.S. When the Italian ski jumping team dropped out a week before Opening Ceremony, the U.S. added Hoffman, continuing the tradition of having a woman ski jumper compete at every Winter Games since adding women to the program in 2014.
Two days later, another quota spot opened up for the men.
First-time Olympian Decker Dean, who was next in line in the Continental Cup standings, rounded out the U.S.’s ski jumping delegation to an even handful.
With the 21-year-old from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the men had enough athletes to enter the team event, which took place on the final day of ski jumping on Monday night at the Zhangjiakou National Ski Jumping Centre.
The men’s ski jumping team event had become a quadrennial tradition for the U.S. ever since 1988, the year the event was added to the Olympic program.
In Beijing, the four-man U.S. team placed 10th overall with a collective score of 261.0 points. Despite Larson recording a team-best 106-meter jump, it wasn’t enough to take them to the finals, where only the top eight moved on.
Men’s Ski Jumping wrapped up their final event at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 tonight with the Team Large Hill event.
Proud of the guys, time to prepare for Milan 2026🎿🚀#Beijing2022 #Olympics #SkiJumping #TeamUSA pic.twitter.com/6jytLqmEbQ
— USA Nordic (@usanordic) February 14, 2022
The best Olympic finish for the men was in the normal hill, where all four athletes qualified for the final round of competition. The foursome bested their standings from the earlier round, which didn’t see them cracking the top 40. In the end, Larson finished 39th, Bickner at 43rd, Dean at 44th, and Gasienica in 49th.
Larson admitted that while he loves getting to experience the Games for the second time — having placed 9th in the team event in PyeongChang and a top-40 in the normal hill — he shared something he doesn’t enjoy.
“I don’t want to keep getting 35th, 39th place — I want to win,” he said. “All athletes do, but something needs to happen.”
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Olympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.
Kevin Bickner competes during the men's large hill individual first round during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 12, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
Bickner — who finished the men’s large hill individual event in 39th and was the highest-placing USA Nordic athlete — continues to be hopeful about the future of his sport.
After seeing steady growth in the last few years, the first ski jumper to qualify for Beijing shared some insight. “We’re seeing a lot of it at the beginners’ level. A lot of kids are starting to join clubs around the country. We’re seeing those numbers tick up quite a bit.”
In 10 years or so, he said, “you’re going to see a lot more kids on the development level, and even getting to the elite level. I think we’re going to be a force to reckon with eventually.”
Eventually can’t come soon enough. It’s been almost 100 years since the U.S. won its first and only medal in ski jumping.
At the Olympic Winter Games Chamonix 1924, Anders Haugen qualified for the bronze medal. But in a unique twist, it wasn’t until 50 years later when the math error was realized, and he was awarded what was rightfully his.
The last time a U.S. male ski jumper landed in the top 10 in an individual event was at the Sarajevo Games in 1984.
After several of Bickner’s teammates — primarily women — retired after the 2018 Winter Olympics, the 25-year-old finds himself to be the oldest U.S. ski jumper in Beijing. Among the youngest is 21-year-old Hoffman.
Ski jumping since she was two, the U.S. women’s ski jumping trials champ debuted at her first Games on the opening night of ski jumping in Beijing. In the individual normal hill competition, which remains the lone women’s event in the sport, Hoffman finished 37th.
In the end, Team USA showed up in force in Beijing on the hill, helping pave the way for the growth of ski jumping in the U.S.
Lisa Costantini is a freelance writer based in Orlando. She has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications, and has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2011.