Organizers expecting large crowds and Olympic athletes
By Mike Lynch
The world’s top ski jumpers will compete in Lake Placid this weekend for the sport’s first World Cup in this small Olympic village since 1990.
And tickets are a hot commodity.
The Olympic Regional Development Authority is expecting the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup to sell out on Saturday and Sunday. Capacity for the Olympic Jumping Complex is 10,000 people, but organizers are planning to cap ticket sales at 7,500 people each day due to anticipated turn-out from staff, coaches and season-ticket holders at ORDA venues, who get free entry. The general admission price for people aged 13 to 64 is $20. As of Tuesday afternoon, ORDA had sold 6,700 tickets for Saturday and 5,900 for Sunday.
ORDA director of communications Darcy Norfolk said the event has “definitely exceeded our expectations.”
“There’s a tremendous interest, obviously, in the sport of ski jumping with our international communities who are coming to the area to watch their athletes compete,” Norfolk said. “And I think just in general ski jumping in a World Cup is just an exciting event to attend. And so we’re seeing quite a bit of a following, and we’ll have a lot of people here this weekend.”
She warned fans will need to arrive early to find parking and a shuttle to the venue.
The sport of ski jumping is extremely popular in some European countries, such as Norway, Germany and Poland, and that has helped boost the attendance numbers in Lake Placid. Norfolk said a large contingent of Polish-American fans are expected to attend.
“There’s not only people driving in from the (New York) city area,” said Lake Placid ski jumper Tate Frantz. “But there’s a lot of fans flying in from Europe, where it’s really big.”
He said visiting athletes, who compete in front of crowds as big as 25,000 in Europe, were “quite surprised and excited to have such a big crowd for ski jumping in America.”
Overall World Cup points leader Halvor Egner Granerud, of Norway, and Olympic gold-medalist Ryoyu Kobayaski, of Japan, are among the top jumpers to watch this weekend, Frantz said.
In addition, German native Andre Kiesewetter, the winner on the large hill at the last ski jumping World Cup held in Lake Placid in December 1990, will be present. He is currently on the staff of Switzerland’s national team and is returning to Lake Placid for the first time since his victory.
This is also the first World Cup ski jumping event in the United States since it took place in Park City, Utah, in 2004.
The plan originally called for Iron Mountain in Michigan to host this event, but the hometown committee encountered organizational struggles, according to media reports, and Lake Placid picked up the event.
“Keep in mind that we took this on six months ago … so I think that speaks volumes for our organization,” Norfolk said.
Major upgrades have been made to the jumps, hill, snowmaking and even lifts, where a new gondola was installed, in recent years.
Lake Placid’s jumper
At age 17, Frantz will be the youngest ski jumper competing in what will be his first World Cup competition. Frantz qualified just weeks ago on January 14 by earning points in a Continental Cup in Sapporo, Japan.
He needed a top 30 finish and took 24th in what was his last opportunity to qualify for Lake Placid.
Frantz benefitted from a World Cup rule that allows host countries to have extra jumpers at their venues. Normally, only the top three USA jumpers compete but two more were allowed this weekend, he said.
“It’s pretty special to have my first World Cup, not only in your home country, but on your home hill,” said Frantz, who competed as a Nordic combined athlete until this season when a knee injury forced him to pull back on cross-country skiing.
Frantz said his childhood coaches, friends, parents and grandparents are expected to attend.
He said it’s the biggest crowd he’s seen in Lake Placid for a ski jumping competition. The next biggest he could remember was the Flaming Leaves Festival, which he estimated would draw one or two thousand people.
Frantz said he was based in Lake Placid until about two years ago. He relocated to Lillehammer, Norway, where his team trains. From there, he has been traveling to Japan, Russia, Slovenia, and “all over Europe” to compete in Continental Cups.
The organizers are also hoping this event inspires a new wave of American ski jumpers to take up the sport as Frantz did as a child. Norfolk said from a personal standpoint it’s special to see him compete, in part because she saw him grow up.
“It’s really cool to see him get chosen for that spot on the U.S. team,” she said.
Competitions start 5 p.m. Friday with qualifying rounds and will run throughout the day Saturday and Sunday.