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Historic win for Tara Geraghty-Moats in Nordic combined World Cup

Defending FIS Nordic Combined Continental Cup champion Tara Geraghty-Moats jumps in the provisional competition round of the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup in Ramsau, Austria. (Romina Eggert/USA Nordic)

RAMSAU, Austria — American Tara Geraghty-Moats (West Fairlee, Vermont) made history Friday, Dec. 18, skiing to a hard-fought victory by just 1.5 seconds in the first-ever FIS Nordic Combined World Cup for women in an idyllic mountain setting at Ramsau am Dachstein.

It was an emotional win for the 27-year-old who has been a pioneer in the movement to bring women’s Nordic combined to the Olympics. Geraghty-Moats has trained in Lake Placid and has been a sponsor athlete for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority in the past.

“We are thrilled to hear about Tara’s momentous win at the first women’s Nordic combined World Cup event,” ORDA spokesperson Elise Ruocco said in an email. “We supported Tara for many years as an ORDA athlete and continue to cheer her on while she trains and competes at our venues. Tara will always be a part of the ORDA family, and we extremely proud of her during this time in her career with Nordic Combined, she has worked incredibly hard to get to this point.”

Geraghty-Moats finished sixth in the ski jumping segment of the Nordic combined competition, putting her 39 seconds behind Norwegian Gyda Westvold-Hansen to start the 5k cross-country race. Geraghty-Moats charged hard from the start, catching Westvold-Hansen near the end of the first of two laps on a hill. Westvold-Hansen fought back to ski even before Geraghty-Moats pulled away again on a hill to hold on for a victory.

The American is the two-time defending champion in the Continental Cup and came into the race a favorite. The women’s World Cup debut had been scheduled in early December at Lillehammer, Norway, but was postponed.

USA Nordic fielded a team of four athletes for the World Cup debut. Annika Malacinski (Steamboat Springs, Colorado) finished 28th with teammates Alexa Brabec and Tess Arnone (both Steamboat Springs, Colorado) 29th and 30th.

An emotional Geraghty-Moats stood atop the winner’s podium, flanked by athletes from Norway and Japan. “Today here in Ramsau was a dream come true,” said Geraghty-Moats in a press release. “It was something I’ve dreamed about since I was 10 years old — before it was even a possibility.

“Just a huge thanks to my team and FIS for finally inviting the women to the big leagues.”

There were many unknowns for athletes coming into the first event of the season after COVID-19 wreaked havoc on training and competition schedules.

“Coming into this competition I was really uncertain of myself because I hadn’t put a bib on in 10 months,” said Geraghty-Moats. “And I had only 10% of my ski jumping training I had hoped to have. But all day long I just kept telling myself that I could do it — every step at a time.”

Sports organizations including the International Ski Federation and USA Nordic have been working actively to bring women’s Nordic combined into the Olympics. It is the only remaining Olympic event where women do not compete. The historic debut of a FIS Nordic Combined World Cup will be followed this Feb. 27 with the first ever World Championship for women at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Geraghty-Moats becomes the first U.S. Nordic combined skier in nearly nine years to win a World Cup.