A. Brabec of the U of U and K. McKinnon get historic 2nd in Jr. World’s Nordic Combined in Slovenia

KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia — University of Utah student Alexa Brabec and her USA Nordic teammate Kai McKinnon earned a silver medal at the FIS Nordic Junior World Ski Championships in the Women’s Team Sprint Normal Hill HS 102/2×4.5 on Saturday in Planica, Slovenia.

McKinnon is a high schooler from the New York Ski Education Foundation (NYSEF), and Brabec grew up skiing for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club (SSWSC).

Kai McKinnon (L) and Alexa Brabec. Photo: TownLift // Michele Roepke

As one American fan put it, “USA went from never to three.” In fact, up until Thursday, neither the ski jumping (men’s) nor Nordic combined (men’s, women’s) of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team had ever won medals at this annual event. Now, the medal count is at three among them. Park City’s Sarah Hendrickson won a ski jumping medal a decade ago. The Utah Olympic Park is the common denominator of all these national athletes, providing vital world-class training jumps. Soldier Hollow in Midway is also one of the best places elite athletes practice and compete for Nordic combined.


Jill Brabec, mom of Alexa and her sister, Haley (also competing in the Nordic combined in these Jr. Worlds) told TownLift, “It’s great to see these women’s podiums, and I hope it inspires others to keep growing the sport.” Under the umbrella of USA Nordic, she’s organizing interested Americans to mobilize. “As the only Winter Olympic sport without any women’s competition, all I can do is encourage supporters to reach out to me at to get in the fight to keep this gender and this awesome sport in general alive and well as anyone can see it is over the last two days.” 

Less than 24 hours earlier, Brabec stood on the same second-place podium step for the individual event, and McKinnon stood up there in sixth place.

That call to action that is echoed by the Nordic combined girls on the Park City Ski and Snowboard Team (PCSS) and their coaches, including Michael Ward, who is in Planica coaching this silver medal-winning duo today.

This video shows all the action contained in one of any given lap whereby the wax techs tune up the skis of one athlete trying to stay warm in the pouring rain while her teammate races around the course.

In the morning, USA jumped into fifth place, with Germany jumping into first place at that point. Then, Germany ended up in fifth after the ski, and Japan, who was in second after the jump, won in the end. Austria ultimately came in third after coming in ninth after the jump. 

The moment when the two American women in red physically tag one another within the designated zone to end one’s lap and begin the next one’s. Photo: TownLift // Michele Roepke
Team USA athlete in a red-suited crumble on the standing-water puddled ground after cross-country skiing her last lap. Photo: TownLift // Michele Roepke

Watch Team USA race across the finish line, nearly catching the team in front of them and way ahead of the team behind them.

See Brabec’s ski jump in this video from the night before, when she added an extra event to her busy week. In essence, she took one for the team, completing a team for USA in ski jumping after placing second in individual Nordic combined.

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