The countdown is on to the start of this week’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Team USA has historically struggled in ski jumping. But that could soon change thanks to an unlikely success story near Chicago. CGTN’s Dan Williams reports.
The Norge Ski Club was founded in Fox River Grove on the outskirts of Chicago by Norwegian immigrants in 1905.
It’s an unusual location for a ski jump; it’s not part of any ski resort or mountain range.
Despite the long history, the club has failed to produce one Olympian. But that is now set to change. In the Republic of Korea (ROK), the club will have not just one but three skiers competing in PyeongChang 2018.
“It’s hard to explain,” Scott Smith, the president of the Norge Ski Club said. “But we are all excited obviously. Everybody has put work into the club. It’s our whole club and we’re all excited to see what our guys can do.”
“To be honest with you, I am still trying to soak it in.”
Maureen Bickner is the mother of Kevin Bickner, one of the club’s skiers who will be competing in South Korea. Last year, Kevin smashed the U.S. distance record, jumping 244.5 meters in Norway.
“It really says something that three of the four Olympians are from this club and from the mid-west,” Maureen said. “We don’t have the mountains but they have the spirit and the determination.”
The club’s budget for the year depends on the amount of beer and food sold over the weekend of their annual tournament. It was around fifteen years ago when the club began to take jumping more seriously.
Knowing the club needed a bigger jump, Scott began the search. He found one in Ely, Minnesota after the club there went bust.
“Myself and another guy contacted the city up there and asked if we could have the jump,” Scott explained.
“They were just going to scrap it. They said no problem. So we went up there, dismantled it, brought it down here. I credit this jump for our guys’ success that made the Olympics for sure.”
The Norge Ski Club agreed to pay a dollar for the new jump – but had to come up with a half a million dollars in moving costs.
The success of the club’s skiers this year has attracted significant interest. Its members are hopeful that their achievements will now in turn, inspire the next generation of local jumpers.
“It’s definitely motivating, said Ben Kaiser, a junior ski jumper, “especially having, like, three people from this club going to the Olympics. It definitely makes me want to work harder.”
The saying, ‘build it and they will come’ could not be more apt for the Norge Ski Club. And those here hope it is just the beginning.