Olympic Team Trials help athletes keep focus on future Winter Games

Ben Ramsey
Park Record

PARK CITY, Utah — Nordic combined athlete and Parkite Jared Shumate did not win the Olympic Team Trials on Saturday, and he’s candid about the race.

“It was brutal,” he said. “I started pretty far back, so it was trying to make up time the entire time — there were really no second thoughts.”

He and Steven Shuman, also a Park City local, finished seventh and eighth respectively in the Team Trials. As the youngest athletes competing at the event, they were long shots for a first-place finish. For both of them, it was their first Olympic Trials, and a stepping stone toward being future Olympians.

Shuman qualified for the event after accruing continental cup points last season, but Shumate only qualified recently.

“I finished less than a second in front of the person behind me,” he said. “It was about as close as it gets. I scored a single continental cup point in Steamboat Springs two weeks ago, so I just barely squeaked in — 30th gets one point, 31st gets zero points.”

For Shumate, that single point changed his season. Not only did it allow him to compete in Team Trials, but it also opens the door to the World Junior Championships and qualifies him for the U.S. Ski Team next year.

Shumate said competing at home was special, doubly so because of the massive crowd.

“It’s awesome that they come out to support the team, because I personally have never skied in front of this many people,” Shumate said. “Pretty much up the entire stadium, you’re skiing by a line of people on the fence, so it’s extra motivation. Makes it feel good.”

Shuman concurred.

“I skied at one of the coolest World Cups in the world in Oslo, Norway,” he said. “They historically have some of the craziest fans and this blew Norway out of the water. There were way more people here than there were there.”

The two up-and-comers said during their jumps they could see the whole crowd below.

Zach Selzman is also looking forward to future Olympics. On Saturday, he got his first-ever winter normal jump in – which happened to coincide with his 13th birthday – when he was selected as one of the non-competitive jumpers that help maintain the condition of the jump.

“It’s really fun,” Selzman said. “It’s kind of a pain because you have to wait at the top for a really long time, but other than that it’s super fun because you get to just kind of be with all the Olympians.”

Selzman competes at the U16 level, and is hoping to qualify for the Junior Nationals this year.

By being a forejumper, he joined a long and illustrious list of Olympians and Olympic hopefuls that had gone before him, including Bryan Fletcher, Saturday’s Nordic Combined champion, and Shuman and Shumate, who were forejumpers at the last Winter Games.

“It’s pretty cool, especially because they have just the young kids doing it,” Shumate said. “So when you’re a young kid and you’re looking up to Bryan Fletcher and Will Rhoads and all them, it’s pretty cool to be at the top of the jump with them and then see what they do before competitions.”

Selzman said he didn’t talk to any of the athletes.

“I didn’t want to mess with preparations,” he said. “They were all really focused.”

After the race that focus had shifted to future Trials — especially, Shuman said, if the Winter Games come back to Salt Lake.

“If they have one (in Salt Lake), I’ll definitely stick around,” he said.

By then, they hope to be ready.

“I don’t know if I’m one of those people that kids look up to yet, but I hope so,” Shumate said. “One day.”