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AVSC alumnus raising Nordic combined funds

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Aspen native Michael Ward is part of an effort to raise money for the Nordic combined program — a program that had its funding slashed by the U.S. Ski Team.
Courtesy photo |

Nordic combined has a new meaning in the United States.

Nordic combined now means that individual Nordic combined athletes will have to pay their own way.

The U.S. Ski Team in the spring opted to stop funding the U.S. Nordic Combined Program.

Aspen native and Aspen Valley Ski Club alumnus Michael Ward was named to the B team for Nordic combined shortly before the program’s funding was cut by the U.S. Ski Team.

“The team was informed, that according to ski team) officials, we don’t have a relevant-enough program,” Ward said. “We were told that we don’t have a big enough pipeline, and that our program is not sustainable.”

He said the fundraising now falls to the athletes.

“This leaves us with an enormous task of fundraising almost $500,000 on our own just to compete this coming season,“ Ward said. “We have to fund coaches, travel and competition fees, while at the same time continuing our training to stay in shape for competitions.”

He said most other national teams receive funding from their governments.

Last year’s budget from USSA and the U.S. Ski Team was approximately $640,000.

This year, the U.S. team is projected to fund one head coach at $50,000 plus additional funding for a total of $130,000.

Ward said this does not begin to cover the costs of flying to and from Europe with a squad of athletes and coaches competing on the World Cup circuit.

Also, he said, coaching salaries must be covered, wax technicians hired, room and board paid for and training camps covered.

Recently, the U.S. Nordic Combined Team joined forces with USA Ski Jumping, a nonprofit organization to begin the laborious task of raising funds while also trying to train and prepare athletes for international competition.

“We have to look at developing athletes from the bottom up while at the same time attempting to fund and prepare for World Cup competitions this winter,” head coach David Jarrett said. “We have a World Championships in Nordic combined coming up in Falun, Sweden, in late February. The whole world is watching us because they know we have the talent. “

The U.S. team in Nordic combined earned four Olympic medals in 2010 and one World Championships medal in 2013.

Ward, who lives and trains in Park City, Utah, is preparing for the upcoming season.

A fundraising effort in Aspen during the USA Pro Challenge cycling event will benefit the entire U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team, which will be in attendance for a five-day endurance camp in Aspen. The team also will shadow the USA Pro Challenge events on Aug. 18 and Aug. 19.

Local cross country athletes of all ages will have the opportunity to take part in technique sessions with Ward and other elite athletes, including Olympic gold medalist Billy Demong.

A special cocktail party and benefit will be held at a private home as part of the fundraising effort.

The USA Pro Challenge will begin on Monday, Aug. 18, with the Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race, following the same route as last year.

dstrode@aspentimes.com


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