If the Olympic Games were held today, you’d likely see Andrew Urlaub flying the U.S. colors.
That’s an indication how high the 17-year old Eau Claire Memorial student has risen in the nation’s ski jumping ranks.
It’s a combination of a shakeup of the U.S. Team and just how well the young Flying Eagle has done this season.
Kevin Bickner and Casey Larson, both of the Norge Ski Club of Chicago, are the only holdovers from last year’s Olympic team who are skiing the international circuit.
Of the other two who competed in South Korea, it has been reported that Will Rhoads, Park City, Ut., has retired and is coaching at the University of Utah and Mike Glasder, Chicago, was injured in a water skiing accident in August and could be limited to 5-Hills competition.
Flying Eagle Nick Mattoon and Chicago’s AJ Brown, last year’s Olympic alternates, have both scaled back to domestic jumping at best.
That leaves the future of this country’s ski jumping mainly up to its promising juniors. Joining Urlaub are Decker Dean of Steamboat Springs, Colo; Greyson Scharffs, Park City; Patrick Gasienica and Hunter Gibson, Chicago and newcomer Camden Wilkinson also of Steamboat.
And down the road that could open the door for several younger Flying Eagles, who currently compete with some of the nation’s best juniors.
Urlaub placed third in U.S. Cup competition at Steamboat, then went to Park City to take fifth and seventh in two international FIS Cup events. During the holidays, he placed first and second at Lake Placid, N.Y., registering the long jumps in both meets.
“It’s been a fun winter,” Urlaub said. “It started out good and I hope to keep up the momentum.”
Urlaub headed to Bischofshofen, Austria earlier this week to compete in Continental Cup competition, then will fly to Sapporo, Japan for another COC meet before returning to Europe and the World Junior Nordic ski championships January 21-27 at Lahti, Finland.
This is his second World Championship appearance after jumping last year at Kandersteg, Switzerland.
“This is a very different situation this year,” Urlaub said of the Worlds. “Last year was a learning experience. This year, I have more confidence.”
He will return to the U.S. and compete in a COC tournament at Iron Mountain, Mich., Feb. 9-10.
The U.S. youngsters are working under the coaching of Jan Druvina of Slovenia, who Urlaub praised for his good work.
Besides looking ahead to the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, Urlaub – who shared the U.S. Cup title last year with Dean – anticipates his chance at ski flying, the super sport of ski jumping in which jumps go beyond the astounding distance of 800 feet. But he will have to wait until at least next year when he turns 18.
Before leaving for Europe on Monday, Urlaub served as a volunteer hill marker at Saturday’s Flying Eagles junior tournament at Mt. Washington.
Unfortunately, that will be his only appearance here as he will be on foreign shores and miss the 50th annual hometown tournament at Silver Mine Hill Jan. 18-19.
Also missing will be Nordic Combined Olympian Ben Loomis, who is currently competing in World Cup competition in Europe.