Olympic success brings extra joy to Norge festivities
More photos Hide photos
The gathering for the Norge Ski Jump International Winter Tournament in Fox River Grove is always festive.
On Sunday, though, fans, club members and budding young ski jumpers at the 113th edition of the event had something unique to celebrate in the facility's long history.
Three Norge Ski Club members -- Michael Glasder of Cary, Kevin Bickner, formerly of Wauconda, and Casey Larson of Barrington -- are expected to compete next month during the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
They are the first members of the 112-year-old club to earn spots on the U.S. Olympic team.
"It's exciting. It's our small little town. Who would have thought that these guys would be going? It makes me cry," said Kristen Immens of Fox River Grove.
Immens said her 17-year-old daughter, Mollie, is hoping to follow in the Olympians' footsteps.
"This is a dream they have had since they were little," Kristen Immens said.
Ski jumper Jacob Fuller, 16, of McHenry said the Norge trio's success shows what's possible for young athletes like himself who train at Norge.
"It's definitely a motivator, especially for the younger athletes here," added Ben Kaiser, 19, who's been jumping at Norge since he was 11.
On a day with temperatures hovering around freezing, the aroma of burning charcoal tinged the air at Norge as tailgaters crowded the muddy parking field Sunday for day two of the annual winter competition.
Many were maintaining family traditions, like the great-grandchildren of onetime Norge skiing captain Marty Wingsness, who were drinking out of shot glasses attached to one of his skis.
In the crowd was Maureen Bickner, mother of Kevin, there to watch her 17-year-old daughter, Kailey, jump in the tournament.
"It's definitely a commitment," she said of competing at the highest level. "I think it was a commitment that was joyfully made. You go to all of the competitions on the weekends, but you're with people that you love."
She said her son believed he would earn a trip to the Winter Games just months after he started ski jumping.
"He had it in his head when he was 10," she said. "I remember when he was 10, he was downhill skiing and I was sitting in a chair lift with him, and he said, 'I always thought I would be going to the Olympics for ski racing, but I guess it will be for ski jumping.'"