Olympic hopefuls will battle for a ticket to Sochi at the U.S. Nordic Combined Trials taking place in Park City, Utah.
The sport combines cross-country skiing and ski jumping and has been part of the Winter Olympics since 1924. However, the United States contingent has never had much success in the event throughout most of the history.
This changed at the 2010 Vancouver Games, when team USA won its first four medals, including a gold by Billy Demong in the Individual Large Hill event. The group also earned a silver medal in the team competition.
To make things even more exciting, women's ski jumping will make its debut in 2014, so the trials will be the first step towards history for a number of representatives.
There is a lot on the line with only the winner of each event having an Olympic spot guaranteed, so every competitor must bring their best effort to the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Here is a look at what else you need to know about the upcoming event.
When: Dec. 28 and 29
Where: Park City, Utah
Watch: NBC on Dec. 29 at 1:30-3 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
|Dec. 28||11:15 a.m.||HS-100 Nordic Combined Competition|
|Dec. 28||4 p.m.||Nordic Combined 10km (4X2.5km)|
|Dec. 29||1:10 p.m.||Men's and Ladies Jumping Competition|
Stars to Watch
As the first and only American ever to win an Olympic gold medal in Nordic combined, Billy Demong is certainly a favorite to return to the international stage.
He has already competed in four Olympic games and is looking for his fifth appearance despite being only 33 years old. Additionally, he is hoping to see his sport grow in popularity. According to the team's official site, Demong had this to say about the trials:
I'm really looking forward to having a domestic event that will showcase our sport going into the Sochi Olympics, especially having it at the home of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. It really shows longevity and legacy here in Salt Lake City and Park City for the Olympics and its legacy. Above all, I think it's going to be really exciting to have an event here in the Olympic season with a lot of guys fired up to try to make the team as well as showcase the sport on NBC.
If Demong keeps winning, it will be easy for everyone to take notice. Assuming he can earn a spot on the team, he will be one of the favorites to medal once again in Sochi.
In the first-ever women's ski jumping event at the Olympics, there will be plenty of elite athletes looking to make history. However, Sarah Hendrickson is the one with the best chance of taking home the inaugural gold medal.
The 19-year-old competitor is coming off a first-place finish at the 2013 World Championships in the normal hill ski jump.
Of course, this will not be without a challenge. Hendrickson tore her ACL and MCL in August, but she still plans on returning to full health by the time the Olympics begin.
The good news is that the committee could select her to the team even if she does not finish in first place at this event, according to Nick Zaccardi of NBC Sports.
With as much talent as Hendrickson has, she deserves a chance to compete for a medal at the 2014 Olympics.
Although Bryan Fletcher did not get the finish he was hoping for at the World Championships, he still finished among the top 10 in the season-long World Cup and has been a part of a bronze-medal-winning team.
As one of the fastest-rising competitors in the sport, he and his brother Taylor will almost certainly find a way to earn spots on the Olympic team.
Additionally, Dana Greene of 4Utah.com revealed that Fletcher survived a battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia as a kid and now works with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
His story of determination is exactly what the Olympics are all about, and he will look to keep achieving big things on his way to Sochi in February.
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