Tara Geraghty-Moats competes in the Ladies HS 100 during the FIS Women's Ski Jumping World Cup on Jan. 15, 2017 in Sapporo, Japan.
Alexa Brabec emailed her high school teachers letting them know she’d have to miss her final exams for a good reason.
The 16-year-old sophomore is about to take part in history.
Brabec told her teachers she’d be out of the country this month because she was set to compete in the first-ever women’s Nordic combined world cup event taking place this week in Ramsau am Dachstein, Austria.
Not all of her teachers were so understanding, though.
“Some of them were really cool with it and were like, ‘Heck yeah!’” Brabec said. “And then others were like, ‘Really? You’re missing my class?’ And I was like ‘Yep.’”
Brabec and fellow Americans Tara Geraghty-Moats and Tess Arnone will be in the field on Friday when the inaugural women’s Nordic combined world cup season kicks off in Austria.
The new world cup circuit and a world championship competition are expected to significantly increase the exposure of women’s Nordic combined, in which athletes ski jump and then race in cross-country skiing. The sport has been part of the Olympics since the first Winter Games in 1924 and has had a world cup circuit for years, but both have been limited to men.
Geraghty-Moats said she hopes the women’s world cup is also a step closer to the sport being included in the Olympic Winter Games, perhaps by 2026.
“For me personally, going into this competition I’m not going to treat it any differently than any other competition,” said Geraghty-Moats, the reigning champion in the Continental Cup, a lower-level circuit.
“At the same time, this is the first-ever women’s world cup. We’re making history. We’re doing something that’s never been done before, and being part of that is extremely exciting.”
The first women’s Nordic combined world cup event will be held less than two weeks after the International Olympic Committee approved an agenda that will promote gender quality and youth at the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
The Paris Olympics will feature exactly 50 percent female and male participation, marking the first time that’s happened. However, the IOC decided against making women’s Nordic combined an Olympic event for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
That hasn’t diminished the significance of this week’s world cup event in Ramsau am Dachstein, though.
“This is definitely a really big deal. It’s a really big deal,” Brabec said. “It’s definitely not just some other competition.”
The first women’s Nordic combined world cup season was supposed to go off much smoother than it has. However, the coronavirus pandemic caused the only two events of the season — in Lillehammer, Norway, in December and Otepää, Estonia, in January — to be cancelled.
Geraghty-Moats was training with Brabec and Arnone earlier this month in Norway when she heard rumors that organizers were looking to quickly schedule the first world cup event.
Once it became official that the event would be held in Ramsau am Dachstein, the three Americans didn’t have much time to prepare for it. They quickly traveled from Norway to Austria, and Geraghty-Moats had to get ready to put on a bib for her first competition in more than 10 months.
Geraghty-Moats said she was able to take only about 15 percent of the ski jumps she normally has in training, in large part because of the pandemic. She instead spent time in Vermont working on her cross-country skiing.
“I’m really happy with where my skiing is at, and we’ll see where my jumping is at. I have a whole winter to improve, and the world championships are a long way off,” Geraghty-Moats said. The world championships are scheduled to begin in late February in Germany.
“I’m not in any way trepidatious about this competition,” she continued. “I’m really excited for it, but that being said, I like to compare it to making a recipe, making bread. If you don’t have the flour you need, the result is probably going to be a little bit different than if you had all of the perfect ingredients you would want.”
Brabec and Arnone, meanwhile, are relative newcomers to the sport. The two teenagers — Arnone is 17 — train together in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and they’re at least a decade younger than 27-year-old Geraghty-Moats.
Brabec and Arnone traveled together to Europe, but they had some difficulty getting into Norway to train and had to quarantine together.
“It’s definitely really helpful to have somebody kind of experiencing it alongside you, so you’re not feeling way out of your league,” Brabec said of Arnone.
Geraghty-Moats is considered perhaps the face of women’s Nordic combined, winning 11 Continental Cup competitions since 2018. However, she believes Brabec and Arnone have the potential to be medal contenders in a few years.
In the meantime, Geraghty-Moats joked that Brabec and Arnone refer to her as their “Nordic combined grandma.” On Friday, they’ll be in the same field together.
“It is the first world cup, but it’s also the largest competition I’ve ever been to,” Arnone said. “So it’s kind a mix of both. I’m excited to be at a world cup, and I’m excited to be part of history.”