Landon Lee was back at the Mt. Washington ski complex on New Year’s Day coaching youngsters on the Flying Eagles Learn-to-Ski Day.
He’s hoping to help young ski jumping enthusiasts to follow in his footsteps.
For the 17-year-old North junior, that’s where in all started.
“I think I was six when my parents took me there and I tried the 7-meter jump,” Lee said. “I fell in love with the sport.”
A decade later, Lee’s jumping has landed him in the Olympics – the third Youth Winter Olympic Games – to be held in Lausanne, Switzerland with jumping set for January 19 and 20.
It’s a dream come true for Lee. And could be the beginning of something bigger.
“I’m really looking forward to it and it’s going to be fun,” he said. “It will be more of a learning experience and is quite an honor skiing against the best juniors in the world.”
The Games are patterned after the regular Olympics and are held every four years for 15-17 year old athletes.
On the downside, the European trip will prevent him from taking part in his hometown tournament to be held January 17-18 at Silver Mine Hill.
Lee is the fifth Eau Claire athlete to be honored. Emilee Anderson took part in ski jumping in 2012 in Austria and four years ago, Ben Loomis won the silver medal in Nordic Combined and Ty Emberson was a key member of the winning hockey team in Norway.
And this year, he joins curler Charlie Thompson as a member of the overall U.S. team.
Lee was one of two Americans to qualify in ski jumping in tryouts held in December at Steamboat Springs, Colo. His jumps were 89 and 90 meters (292 and 295 feet). He is joined on the team by Erik Belshaw of Steamboat.
“I felt I had some really good jumps,” Lee said. “I did my best.”
Since that time, Lee has been competing and training in Europe, taking part in Continental Cup and FIS Cup events in Norway, Germany and Slovenia before returning for the holidays.
“This is really exciting for me,” he said. “Those skiers are really good. But I’m just focusing on myself. All I’m hoping for is to do my best.”
Lee has made steady progress on his ski jumping road. He jumped the old 40-meter at Mt. Washington when he was 11 and advanced to Olympic-sized Silver Mine Hill when he was 13.
Last year, he placed fourth in the Junior Nationals in Alaska and wound up fifth in the U.S. Cup series, winning events at Minneapolis and Westby, where he had a long jump of 105 meters or 344 feet. At Silver Mine Hill, he placed second Friday night but leg problems kept him from competing Saturday.
It was a performance good enough to earn him a spot on the U.S. Junior ski jumping team. As a U.S. Team member, he joins fellow Flying Eagles Ben Loomis, who took part in Nordic Combined in the 2018 South Korea Olympics, and Andrew Urlaub, who jumped in last year’s World championships in Austria.
While touring the globe, it has put a strain on his school studies at North.
“It’s been tough trying to keep up with my school work,” he said. “I take my textbooks with me overseas and do what I can.”
He credits his coaches for his success but most of all his parents, Dennis and Sharon.
“They have been the biggest advocates for me,” he said. “They took me to the hill and drove me to tournaments.”
And among the young jumpers not too far behind Landon is younger brother Carter, a promising flyer at age 15.