PARK CITY, Utah — Jessica Jerome sat on the start bar in the second round of ski jumping on Sunday and basically told herself not to screw up.
More than 5,000 fans were watching the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Ski Jumping at Utah Olympic Park and countless more on live television on NBC. Jerome, who’s notorious for her sense of humor and tell-it-like-it-is personality, was the last one to jump. She needed to nail it to stay in front of long-time teammate and friend Lindsey Van.
She did it. A solid jump and near-flawless technique earned her the victory and made her the first nominee to the inaugural women’s ski jumping Olympic Team that will head to Sochi, Russia, in February. The remaining jumpers of the U.S. Olympic Team to compete in Sochi will be announced Jan. 22.
“It’s pretty surreal and I’m not sure it has sunk in yet,” Jerome said. “The crowd in Park City was awesome. I’m glad I can take a breath now and focus on training to prepare for Sochi.”
Van finished just two points back to take 2nd place and Alissa Johnson finished 3rd. Abby Hughes was 4th, Emilee Anderson, a development team member, took 5th, Nina Lussi was 6th and Nita Englund was 7th. See Full Results.
“It was great to be jumping here in Park City today and see everyone. It was perfect,” said Van.
Johnson said she notched two of the best jumps of her career, likely boosted by the crowd and inspiring performance of her brother, Anders, who minutes before had clinched 2nd place in the men’s Olympic Team Trials for Ski Jumping. Nick Fairall earned the victory, and Peter Frenette was 3rd.
“I knew I was on to something after I had a great trial round and it allowed me to relax and I knew I would be in the hunt (Sunday),” Johnson said. “It was crazy seeing the huge crowd because a lot of those people have been fighting along with us for this chance for years.”
And for Hughes, she was thrilled to be able to show everyone what women ski jumpers were made of. “It meant so much to have all of our supporters there. It was an emotional day for sure.”
Jessica’s Road To Sochi
At 7 years old, Jerome sat her in parent’s living room in Park City, Utah, holding up a flyer inviting kids to an after-school activity to try out ski jumping. She begged to do it. They said no. She kept begging. They said hell no. She badgered and finally they relented.
It’s a good thing they did. Now Peter Jerome and Barbara Jerome get to see their daughter take flight in the Olympic Winter Games in February – the first time women ski jumpers will get to compete on the world’s biggest sports stage.
After her historic win on Sunday, they hugged her and said, “We’re proud of you. We love you.”
Simply put, but the emotions behind those words run deep. It’s been nearly two decades since she held up that flyer, and Jerome’s vast and successful career has been challenged with injuries and surgeries, endless fundraising, and a major international push to get women’s ski jumping into the Games.
The day might not have been possible if it weren’t for Peter Jerome and Barbara Jerome, who decided early on that their daughter and her friends weren’t getting a fair shake. With Barbara’s insistence, Peter bought a “Non-profit for Dummies” book and formed Women’s Ski Jumping USA in 2003.
With the help of numerous parents, volunteers and supporters, the little non-profit that the Jeromes started 10 years ago can now lay claim to two World Champions (Lindsey Van in 2009 and Sarah Hendrickson in 2013) and back-to-back Nations Cup wins by the Visa Women’s Ski Jumping Team, of which Jessica, a 10-time national champion, is a leader.
“I’m completely overwhelmed,” Barbara Jerome said Sunday after Jessica’s win.
Jessica Jerome will now have her name placed squarely in the history books as the first American woman to earn a nomination to the Olympic Team for ski jumping.
“It sounds cliché, but it is a dream come true and I can't wait to go and represent my country,” Jessica Jerome said.