Michael Ward punches his ticket to Italy | AspenTimes.com

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Michael Ward punches his ticket to Italy

Katie Perhai/U.S. Ski TeamMichael Ward finished second at Soldier Hollow, Utah, in December. Soon he'll be competing at the world championships in Italy.

ASPEN – Michael Ward, of Aspen, has been named to the U.S. nordic combined squad that will compete in the 2013 world championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, Feb. 20 through March 3. He’ll join two other Aspen-based nordic standouts there, Noah Hoffman and Simi Hamilton, who were selected for the world championships team earlier this month.

Ward, 20, qualified for the World Championships by virtue of his solid December finishes at the Continental Cup in Soldier Hollow, Utah. There, he was second in the first event and took 11th in another event that included Olympians such as Ales Vodsedalek, of the Czech Republic.

He is the only newcomer to the U.S. team’s nordic combined lineup and joins veterans Billy Demong, Todd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane, all of whom are past world champions. Other teammates include brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher.

According to head coach Dave Jarrett, the U.S. team is “excited for Michael (Ward) to make his debut – qualifying with a Continental Cup podium in December, this is the next step for him in his progression.”

Ward, who trained for four years with Steamboat Winter Sports Club while honing his jumping skills, has steadily improved in his results through Continental Cup events (a testing ground for the World Cup). He is also the first American in a decade to crack the top 10 at the junior worlds event.

The son of former Olympian Craig Ward and Becky Ward, of Brush Creek Village, Michael started skiing at age 2 and developed his cross-country skills through the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club program. He discovered nordic combined, an event that includes cross-country skiing and jumping, during ninth grade.

The nordic combined team is in Sochi this week for Olympic test events in advance of finalizing its preparation for the Worlds. Ward said his long-term goal is to qualify for next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.

According to the U.S. Ski Team, “Ward is one of a host of young athletes who have emerged in the last season to begin challenging the Team’s legendary champions.”