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With Trials Win, Ski Jumper Kevin Bickner Qualifies For Second Olympics

By Chrös McDougall | Dec. 25, 2021, 4:02 p.m. (ET)

Kevin Bickner jumps during the first round of the ski jumping competition at the U.S. Nordic Combined & Ski Jump Olympic Trials on Dec. 25, 2021 in Lake Placid, New York.

 

Christmas in Lake Placid meant more than a snowy getaway for Kevin Bickner. Competing Christmas Day in the picturesque Adirondack town, Bickner flew farther than the rest to win the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Ski Jumping, earning the Illinois native a second trip to the Winter Games.

In the competition held at the Olympic Jumping Complex near the New York town that hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Games, Bickner out jumped the field to secure an automatic berth to the Beijing Games, which begin Feb. 4.

Anna Hoffman won the women’s competition, though the U.S. women have yet to secure an Olympic quota for the Games. The full U.S. ski jumping team is expected to be named later in January.

Bickner, 25, heads to his second Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, after being the top U.S. man four years ago in PyeongChang. The native of Wauconda, Illinois, placed among the top-20 in both individual events, and had the farthest jump in the first round of the normal hill event.

Competing at the top level has been the dream ever since Bickner began ski jumping as a 9-year-old growing up in the Chicago suburbs.

“I remember as young as 3 years old, he was constantly climbing on things and jumping on this and that and it was almost more worrisome (than ski jumping),” his mom, Maureen Bickner, told TeamUSA.org before the 2018 Winter Games. “It was good to get him into a sport where he could have that adrenaline rush in a controlled way.”

Bickner first witnessed the sport at the nearby Norge Ski Club and before long was jumping on a plastic hill. By age 11 he was doing the 70-meter hill — the tallest at Norge — and five years after that he was on the U.S. developmental team, living effectively part time in Park City, Utah.

All of that commitment paid off with his first Olympic berth in 2018.

His 18th-place finish in the normal hill in PyeongChang marked the best by a U.S. man at the Olympics in 16 years. Anders Haugen, who won bronze at the inaugural Winter Games in 1924, remains the only U.S. ski jumper to have won an Olympic medal (though he was initially ranked fourth and only after a recalculation a half-century later was he upgraded to bronze in a special ceremony). Bickner also holds the U.S. distance record at 244.5 meters.

However, he came into the Olympic season without a lot of recent competitive experience after sitting out the world cup circuit last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So far this season he has only jumped in a handful of events, and only once in a world cup event.

That didn’t seem to slow him down on Christmas, as Bickner held off a strong field that included fellow 2018 Olympian Casey Larson and up-and-comer Decker Dean. At least one other U.S. man will qualify for Beijing.

Chrös McDougall

Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic Movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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