Park City’s prime example of international sports diplomacy

PARK CITY, Utah. — Ski Austria, USA Nordic’s counterpart, sent a team of nordic combined athletes to spend two weeks in a training camp at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) and Soldier Hollow (SOHO). Austrian skiers are perennial powerhouses in international competition.

Billy Demong, Park City resident, gold and silver Olympic medalist, and executive director of USA Nordic, competed alongside the coaches who accompanied the athletes and orchestrated their visit. The retired athletes befriended each other over the years. Demong says, “Thanks to the ongoing efforts of the staff of the UOP it’s great that Park City remains a hub for local, national, and international training.”

Austrian nordic combined head coach Christoph Eugen explained in a statement why the nordic combined athletes made the long journey to the USA, “We chose Park City because of the altitude of 6,600 feet. The competitions at the Olympic Games in Beijing are also over 5,000 feet, so we were able to take some experience from the height home with us. The flight system is much more sensitive at this altitude, so it was important for us to do a lot of jumps under these conditions. We always had great weather over long stretches and were able to follow our training plan. There is also countless, very scenic trail running routes that we were on. The water jump served as a welcome change. All in all, a successful training course that may have helped us with the Olympic Games.”

Utah Olympic Park’s nornal hill on the left and large hill on the right. Photo: Michele Roepke

Nick Hendrickson grew up in Park City and works as the USA Nordic Team Director for nordic combined. Hendrickson worked closely with the Austrians visit. Hendrickson said, “It was great to host the Austrian team here. Our team really needs contact with outside teams and having them here allowed us to have that before the summer Grand Prix season starts.”

All sports hold an element of privileged and protected home-field advantage, thus international trips strictly for training are few and far between. Trips like this one establish and maintain global reciprocity.

Currently, a group of ski jumping and nordic combined athletes are in town training from the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

It was unique for the young athletes of the Park City Ski and Snowboard Nordic Team to get to see and meet some of the international athletes they watch compete on TV.

Austria’s Mario Seidl was enthusiastic about the training conditions as he said in a statement, “Salt Lake City is completely new for us in summer, in winter I was there with the Continental Cup. The conditions are perfect, the jumps are in top condition. You can tell that we are at over 6,600 feet, it gets really hot during the day and it cools down brutally at night. But it is also a major goal of the training course that we acclimate ourselves at altitude and see how the body reacts to it under stress.”

Training overseas was also a welcome change Austrian World Championship gold medal winner Lukas Greiderer speaks about in a statement. “This is my fourth time in Park City, but so far I’ve only jumped the normal hill in the Continental Cup. The large hill here is really cool to jump and I’ve worked a lot on my flight system. We used the first week to acclimate.”

Tuesday, the team flew back home. After a week at home, the nordic combined athletes will have the FIS Summer Grand Prix on the program from August 28 to September 5. There are a total of five competitions in a row for men and women in Oberhof and Oberwiesenthal in Germany and Villach in Austria. USA Nordic National and Jr. National Teams boarded a plane on Saturday to ski jump in Switzerland, France, and Slovenia including Parkites Josie Johnson, Rachel Hearter, and Macey Olden. Above and beyond COVID protocols are being adhered to by Americans in Europe and by Europeans in America with vaccinations, testing, and mask-wearing.

Ski Austria headquarters building shares a parking lot in Innsbruck with the national stadium where the 1976 Olympic Opening Ceremony was held. Its premier ski jump venue in Innsbruck is built dug down into the ground a bit for the landing area, not unlike what the UOP’s jump would need to undergo, construction-wise, to accommodate the modernity of the athleticism if Salt Lake City wins the bid for another winter Olympic Games. 

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