World Cup season opens with largest women’s field ever

LILLEHAMMER, Norway — Saturday’s World Cup opener drew 70 elite women ski jumpers from 14 countries — the largest start list ever — showcasing a deep field of women who will vie for the sport’s first Olympic gold medal in 2014.

Japan’s Sara Takanashi, 2013 World Cup overall champion, won the event. Austria’s Daniela Iraschko – the 2011 World Cup champion and a pioneering veteran of the sport at age 30 – tied for second with 14-year-old Gianina Ernst, of Germany, a stark example of the exploding growth of the sport. Germany’s Carina Vogt was 4th.

Coaches said Visa Women’s Ski Jumping Team members battled a bit of nerves this weekend, despite strong jumps in training and the trial round. Jessica Jerome was 19th, Lindsey Van was 22nd, Abby Hughes was 36th, and Alissa Johnson 37th. Nina Lussi was outside of the top 50. Teammates Sarah Hendrickson and Nita Englund didn’t compete as they are recovering from injuries.

“Competition was hard tonight. A couple years ago, you could get away with making more mistakes and now you can't get away with making any mistakes,” said Jerome. “That's a good thing because it means our sport is really growing.”

Friday’s Mixed-Team event (the top two men and women from each country) resulted in Japan’s second win since last season. Austria took second and Norway third place. The U.S. team of Jessica Jerome, Lindsay Van, Nick Alexander and Nick Fairall finished in 13th.

We could have done better as a team,” Van said of Friday’s mixed-team event. “I like the mixed-team format. We get to compete with the guys that we watch all the time and it's fun and different.”

Dec. 7, 2013 Normal Hill women’s event
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Dec. 6, 2013 Normal Hill mixed-team event
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• Dec. 13-14 - Notodden, NOR, Continental Cup event
• Dec. 21-22 - Hinterzarten, GER, the season’s second World Cup event