Ski jumping team set to make Olympic history

Ski jumping team set to make Olympic history

PARK CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - The first U.S.Olympic women's ski jumping team will compete at the national championships this weekend in Park City.
PARK CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - It took years of fighting, battling, convincing and competing, but for the first time ever, there will be a U.S. women's ski jumping team in the Olympics in 2014 in Russia.

"It was a hard, long battle," said ski jumper Alissa Johnson. "We've noticed a huge difference with all the support and recognition. We fought for years for this. Now, its time to sit back, train really hard and enjoy the wave."

Men's ski jumping has been in the Olympics since the inception of the Winter Games in 1922, but only now has women's ski jumping been fully accepted.

"It's so exciting to be finally recognized on the world stage," added Abby Hughes.

Hughes and Johnson will be competing at the U.S. national championships this weekend in Park City. There are five World Cup ski jumpers vying for four spots on the U.S. Olympic team. All five either were born in Utah or currently live in Park City.

"We're all Park City girls," said Johnson, who finished in second place at the 2012 nationals behind Jessica Jerome. "I've been here for 22 years. This is my home, this is where all my memories are. You couldn't pick a better town to be from especially for winter sports."

"This is our home," added Hughes, who finished 3rd a year ago. "We can walk around and people tell us how happy they are for us and how awesome we're doing. We love representing Utah."

Because the U.S. team competes overseas most of the time in the winter, the national championships are usually held in the summer. Even though the skiers land on artificial turf instead of snow, the technique does not change very much.

"The plastic that you see on the jumps is meant to mimic the snow," said Johnson. "It just gets sprayed down with water, and it's pretty much the exact same technique."

Even though the points earned from this weekend's competition do not go towards Olympic qualifying, this is still a major tournament title that is coveted by all the top American ski jumpers.

"You get to prove that you're the national champion," Hughes said. "You get to say you're the best ski jumper in the U.S."

So if you head out to Park City this weekend to see these high flyers soar 90 miles per hour through the air, you will be watching true Olympic pioneers.

"Whether or not I make the team, we've still accomplished some sort of equality," Hughes said.

The finals begin at 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City.
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