Suburban ski jumpers weather the wait

 
By Chris Kwiecinski
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 2/15/2018 7:41 PM
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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- Despite high winds delaying competitions and providing a threat to athletes, the men's ski jump team isn't fretting the wind as they move on to the large hill events Friday.

They are, however, preparing to factor the wind into their competition.

Wauconda's Kevin Bickner, who was the highest-placing American jumper from the normal hill event, said he doesn't agonize about the wind.

While both hills have wind nets around their jump points, Bickner said the nets do not completely protect the hill, which still gives him some small concerns.

"Maybe a little bit, in the back of my head," Bickner said. "The wind is definitely a factor in the competition here."

Some parts of nearby Gangneung endured gusts of 15-mph winds on Wednesday afternoon. In these conditions, athletes put their well being in the hands of the International Ski Federation (FIS) Jury.

Bickner said the jury is present to make sure the wind is as safe as possible for the jumpers. So far during the Games, however, the FIS has been highly criticized for its decision to allow the women's snowboard slopestyle to compete. According to NPR, that event saw more than 40 of its 50 runs end in a crash.

"That's the biggest thing -- is it going to be fair for everybody," Bickner said.

Cary native Michael Glasder, the eldest of the three Norge Ski Club alumni on the team, said the high winds haven't crossed his mind at all

"I like jumping sometimes if the conditions are a little iffy," Glasder said. "I feel like sometimes that'll give me a little bit more of an advantage because I don't really care about it so much."

When the trio from Norge took to the large hill for practice jumps, the wind was calm. That, however, could change quickly for Glasder, Bickner and Barrington native Casey Larson.

With a half-week passing by between the jumpers' event last Saturday and their first training run on Wednesday night, the three are hoping they can get as many training jumps in as possible to shake off the rust from taking the three days off.

"I'm having a little trouble getting back into the groove, but that's why we got a few days," Larson said.

"This morning, we were like, is it going to be too windy tonight?"

Whether they get to compete, however, is in Mother Nature's hands.

• Christopher Kwiecinski is a student at Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism covering the Olympics in Pyeongchang. Follow him on Twitter at @OchoK_.

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