Will Rhoads, the winner of the Art Devlin Cup, loves the sensation of flying through the air.
"There is nothing better than having a really good jump and having the feeling you are never going to come down," he said.
Rhoads was in Lake Placid for the U.S. Ski Jumping Cup, held on the 90-meter jump at Intervale on Wednesday, Feb. 12 that included junior and open classes. In addition, he and a number of the competitors were in the running for the Art Devlin Cup that combines the results of three meets, the U.S. Cup, the Flaming Leaves and the July 4th competition. The U.S. Cup was the next-to-last of nine meets held across the country with the final scheduled for Park City, Utah.
Will Rhoads, winner of the Art Devlin Cup (Photo — Naj Wikoff)
While the twin towers on the 90- and 120-meter (aka 100 HS and 134 HS) jumps in Lake Placid remain icons of the village and the most dramatic emblem of the 1980 games, they are sadly way out of date, and the 120 no longer meets FIS regulations.
"Jumps are being designed flatter to make it harder to jump farther," said Blake Hughes, assistant coach for the U.S. Ski Jumping Team. "Because of changes in the equipment and the way the sport has progressed, jumping here is easier than in Sochi."
"In Park City, we recruit through after-school programs," continued Hughes. "In Steamboat (Springs), ski jumping is part of their culture. The challenge is that there are so many more sports coming in like slope style and boarding, there are so many more options. I think we need to work together to create more national exposure here in the States to push the sport because now everyone wants to be the next Shaun White or Ted Ligety. We need them to want to be the next Peter Frenette."
Good news is that the sport is attracting more women. Women have long been active in the sport. Indeed, in my youth, Sandra Vivitsky made national news appearing on popular TV panel show "What's My Line" as the then-only American woman ski jumper.
"Jumping used to be a dead-end street for women," said Canadian FIS judge Kim Fripp. "The only reason they were doing it is because they just loved going off that jump. It was do it until you get tired of it and then go home, but now that they have included the sport in the Olympics, you will see many more women entering, and having future opportunities as coaches, trainers, judges and all the rest."
"Women have been participating in a big way for the past decade or so," said Hughes. "I am happy the way it is progressing. It is very competitive, and the level is definitely on the rise as there are a lot of young girls coming into the sport and even more behind them. Just having women in the Olympics is going to stimulate so many more girls to enter into the sport."
"Jumping is a really fun sport and a really tight-knit community across the country and the world," said Evan Bliss, New York Ski Educational Foundation head jumping coach. "You get to travel from a young age around the East Coast, which is fun. You get to see the rest of the country when you grow up and get better, and hopefully you will get to see the rest of the world. You will probably make a lot of great friends along the way that will be friends for the rest of your life."
"It is great being at any of the venues, but it is special to be here," said former Olympian Jay Rand, now director of NYSEF. "I was the manager here for 15 years from right after the Olympics. I jumped here. I was the first jumper on the big hill, the 120, and the greats like Art Devlin, Art Tokle, and my father all jumped here on the 1932 Olympic hill, and here we are on a beautiful day. You couldn't ask for any better. And this is a USA Cup. Larry Stone is here, and he is still coaching the younger generations."
"He coached both you and me as a matter of fact," I said.
"Yes, at Northwood School," said Jay. "I was out on the old 10th Mountain skis with you."
"Yes, complaining all the way."
"I preferred gravity and being in the air," said Jay.
"We are in the process of building up our numbers of jumpers, so we are having more kids moving up the ladder to ski in this level of a meet," said head of the hill and jumping coach Larry Stone. "In order to attract the meets, we need to upgrade the facilities because now they are beginning to fall into the area of an older facility. We are able to keep the winter profile at an international level through building up snow, but the summer facility is out of compliance with the modern profile. Jumping is now a year-round sport, and it has been for a long time, 30 years, more actually."
"My son David was a jumper, and I got into volunteering through him," said Woods McCahill. "You know the kids and that's what did it. He started when he was 6. Fortunately for him, he has a Finnish grandmother and a Finnish mother, and they thought it was very appropriate for him to jump. They learn to be responsible. They can't go off this and be horsing around. It was a great sport for my kid. I am glad he did it. If there was a powder day at Whiteface and he had the choice, he'd go ski jumping. They are all like that. Nearly all are good alpine skiers, but when they could jump, they'd jump. He thought the greatest 6 seconds you could spend was flying off the 120."
"I think it is absolutely great that my grandson Karl is a jumper," said Armond Moquin.
"I'm thrilled. I never jumped. I like to keep my feet on the ground. He really enjoys it. I hope he does well, and I hope he keeps going. I told him he needs to make the next Olympic games. He just turned 16, so he has plenty of time. He could make two or three, maybe four. You never know, as long as the interest stays there."
"It feels stellar to be the winner of my division," said Landon Livreri, of Lake Placid, who won the junior division. "I have been jumping fours years. I saw a flier at the Olympic training center and decided to try out. I like the flying."
"Lake Placid is a special place because a lot of the world is putting a lot of money into just the same hills really, and here you have the hills from the 1980 Olympics," said Rhoads. "It's a really different feeling. It favors the flier."