LAKE PLACID - The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association nominated 15 athletes Sunday to compete in the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games at a ceremony held at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex.
"I've had this marked on my calendar for a year and a half, so I'm glad to qualify," said 16-year-old Ben Berend of Steamboat Springs, Colo. "I'm stoked."
Berend was one of three athletes on hand to receive the nomination in person. He qualified after taking first place among 15- and 16-year-olds in the nordic combined competition held Saturday and Sunday as part of the Flaming Leaves Festival.
Saranac Lake’s Peter Frenette soars to a second-place finish Saturday during the Flaming Leaves ski jumping competition held at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex in Lake Placid.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
From left, Winter Youth Olympic Games nominees Ben Berend, A.J. Brown and Emilee Anderson join two-time Olympian Gary Crawford, a coach at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, and winter games mascot Yoggl to pose for a photo at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex in Lake Placid.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
Ski jumpers Emilee Anderson of Eau Claire Wis. and A.J. Brown of Fox River Grove, Ill. were also present. Anderson won the junior women's division Saturday with jumps of 79 and 85.5 meters, while Brown won the junior men's division with jumps of 97.5 and 99.5 meters.
"I've been working to jump at this level for a long time," Brown said. "It's been my dream to jump against that many people."
The Youth Olympic Games is slated for Jan. 13-22 in Innsbruck, Austria. It is an international multi-sport event, held under the authority of the International Olympic Committee, that will take place every four years, consistent with the format of the Olympic Winter Games.
2012 U.S. Winter Youth Olympic Team
Jan. 13-22 in Innsbruck, Austria
(Name, Hometown, Club, Date of Birth)
Alex Leever (Vail, Colo., Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, 07/6/95)
Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, Colo., Burke Mountain Academy, 03/13/95)
Patrick Caldwell (Lyme Center, N.H., Stratton Mountain School 2/18/94)
Heather Mooney (Peru, Vt., Middlebury College Ski Team, 2/27/94)
Ben Berend (Steamboat Springs, Colo., Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, 6/29/95)
Aaron Blunck (Crested Butte, Colo., Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, 4/12/96)
Jeanne Crane-Mauzy (Waterville Valley, N.H., Axis Freeride, 6/5/96)
Grant Ketels (Reno, NV, Olympic Valley Freeride and Freestyle Team, 11/28/95)
Lesley Wilson (Steamboat Springs, Colo., Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club 08/02/96)
Emilee Anderson (Eau Claire, Wis., Flying Eagles Ski Club, 12/13/95)
A.J. Brown (Fox River Grove, Ill., Norge Ski Club, 02/28/95)
Ben Ferguson (Bend, Ore., U.S. Snowboarding, 1/21/95)
Arielle Gold (Steamboat Springs, Colo., Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, 05/04/96)
Max Raymer (Park City, Utah, Park City Snowboard Team, 08/24/95)
Indigo Monk (Manhattan Beach, Calif., Breckenridge Resort, 01/5/95)
The 15 young athletes between the ages of 15 and 18 will be among 1,057 athletes from 80 countries competing in alpine skiing, halfpipe skiing and snowboarding, slopestyle snowboarding, skicross, cross country, ski jumping and nordic combined.
Athletes qualified through their results in high-level competitions, such as the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, Revolution Tour and World Junior Championships. The ski jumping and nordic combined competitions during this weekend's Flaming Leaves Festival in Lake Placid determined the final nordic qualifiers.
The USOC will send a total team of more than 60 athletes to represent the U.S. in Innsbruck, across 15 sports and 63 events. The first Summer Youth Olympic Games was held in August 2010 in Singapore.
While many of the athletes competing in junior classes were shooting for the Youth Olympic Games, Lake Placid native Miles Lussi at age 14 was too young to make the cut. Still, the young ski jumper held his own in competitions, taking fifth place Saturday with jumps of 85.5 and 82 meters.
"I had a pretty solid first jump but my second jump was a little short," Lussi said. "The wind changed and my jump was not technically as good."
In addition to the junior jumpers, athletes competed in the men's and women's open classes, including several Olympians. The jumpers were competing for the Art Devlin Cup, given to a ski jumper with the best overall results at a series of competitions held at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex.
Many of the jumpers did better in their first jumps Saturday compared to the second round, including Saranac Lake resident Peter Frenette. The 2010 Olympian took second place overall after landing jumps of 102 and 90.5 meters.
He said there was lot of headwind on the first jump, which makes it easier to jump. Then on the second jump, skiers moved down one gate and the headwind died.
"It's pretty tough to jump that far with dead wind," said Frenette, who set the venue record with a jump of 108 meters last year during the Flaming Leaves competition.
Frenette came in behind Olympian Anders Johnson of Park City, Utah, who had jumps of 102.5 and 94.5. The reigning two-time Art Devlin Cup champion, Nick Fairall of Andover, N.H., grabbed the festival's third-place finish after soaring to jumps of 100 and 87.
Abby Hughes of Park City, Utah won the women's open competition, while Jessica Jerome of Park City, Utah claimed the silver medal. Alissa Johnson of Groton, Mass. finished third.
In the men's nordic combined competition, which included ski jumping Saturday followed by a roller skiing race Sunday, Bryan Fletcher took first place ahead of his brother Taylor Fletcher.
Ben Loomis won the junior class ahead of Berend but was too young to qualify for the Youth Olympic Team.