PARK CITY, Utah – Let's hear it for the veteran.
At age 28, Michael Glasder flew to an upset victory Sunday by winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Nordic Combined & Ski Jumping and qualifying for Team USA in men’s ski jumping.
Glasder, almost six years older than any of his American rivals, won the event at Utah Olympic Park on the HS100 hill.
Eight years ago, Glasder thought he would qualify for the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010, but just missed out. He just missed out four years later for Sochi, too.
“After that I wasn’t really sure what I was going to,” he said. “So I kind of just stuck it out and here we are.”
In the winner-takes-all trials, Glasder defeated the five other men’s competitors, including top rivals Kevin Bickner and Will Rhoads, for the $10,000 first prize.
Glasder flew in from Europe on Friday, arriving at about 3:30 p.m.
“It was super close on timing,” he said. “Luckily all my equipment came. The jet lag’s there a little bit.”
It didn’t show, though, as Glasder soared 98.5 meters on his first jump and performed a beautiful Telemark landing. The distance combined with the judges’ points for form and wind compensation gave him 133.7 points.
He only had a 1.5-point cushion over Bickner, who also jumped 98.5 meters.
Bickner turned up the heat by going 100 meters on his second jump for a total of 268.6 points.
But Glasder followed that with 98 meters and his style points gave him the victory at 270 points.
Up to three more men’s ski jumpers could qualify based on world cup results through January 22.
Rhoads said he made a small mistake in the air. “Sometimes that’s just the difference,” he said. “I had a slight problem on landing. The second round was really good; it just wasn’t enough. My teammates were really on their game. It’s good to see.”
Rhoads said that while he waited as the final competitor, he could tell that Glasder and Bickner had big jumps.
“As much as you try to focus on yourself, when you hear that huge roar, you’re like, ‘All rigggght.’”
Rhoads compared the competition to an NBA team working together all season “and then all of a sudden they’re like, ‘Now you guys are going to play one-on-one to determine who’s going to be the best player. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s different with your teammates being so competitive.”
The men’s and women’s ski jumping events were held under blue skis with temperatures about 32 degrees before about 7,000 people, the highest attendance at Utah Olympic Park since the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002.
“I’ve never jumped in front of a crowd that big in the U.S. before,” Glasder said. “Everyone was super pumped up. Anyone on our team could have won today. I was the lucky one.”
The atmosphere was much different from the way he was raised.
“When everyone asks, ‘Oh where you are from?’” he said, “I say, ‘The northwest suburbs of Chicago,’ and they go, ‘What the heck? There are no mountains there.’”
He started at age 5 on a “rickety old pair of skis,” he said. “I didn’t have the coaching or the facilities.”
But Glasder said he’s been told that on a family outing he refused to go in for lunch, telling his uncle, “I’m going to stay out here until I get it right.”
In the early 2000s, the Norge Ski Club got a jump from Minnesota and became one of the best training sites in the country. Bickner, AJ Brown and Casey Larson also represent the club, giving it four of the six competitors at the trials.
“It’s great to be the older guy,” Glasder said, noting that the other athletes “keep me young. They keep me up to date on all the Twitter stuff and Instagram. I can show them around some of the places we travel to. I’ve been going there for all of the competitions the last 10 years and I have a little more experience.”
Bickner said that Glasder “definitely deserves it. It’s great to see, I’m stoked to have him on the team and hopefully also I’ll be on that team next month.”