The U.S. Olympic ski jumping team, the nation’s smallest in 94 years with three athletes, was announced Thursday after one of the qualifiers declined his spot.
Kevin Bickner won the Olympic Trials on Christmas to earn a spot at his second Olympics.
Erik Belshaw, 17, qualified as the second jumper based on his Continental Cup ranking. Belshaw, who would have been the youngest man on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports, gave up his spot before the team was announced Thursday. Belshaw declined to comment on his decision.
That meant that Patrick Gasienica moved up to get the second spot on the team based on his Continental Cup ranking. Casey Larson, a 2018 Olympian, got in as the third and final ski jumper via selection committee decision. Larson was the third American in the Continental Cup rankings behind Belshaw and Gasienica.
Gasienica and Larson are 23-year-olds from the same Chicagoland ski club as Bickner.
It’s the first time the U.S. failed to qualify for the Olympic men’s team event in ski jumping, which was added in 1988. It last had fewer than four ski jumpers compete at an Olympics in 1928, according to Olympedia.org.
The U.S. last put a man into the top 10 at the Olympics in 1984, not counting the team event, according to Olympedia. The last U.S. man to finish in the top 10 of an individual World Cup was 2002.
Its lone Olympic ski jumping medal came in 1974. That medal was actually awarded for the 1924 Chamonix Winter Games. It was learned 50 years later that a math error denied American Anders Haugen a bronze medal, and the IOC corrected the results.
Japan’s Ryōyū Kobayashi is the leading male ski jumper at the moment. He just won the biggest annual event in the sport — the Four Hills Tournament — for the second time and leads the World Cup standings.
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