Team USA is highly competitive in many Olympic sports, but ski jumping wasn't one of them at the 2014 Winter Games—nor has it been for many, many years.
No medals were won by Americans in any event in Sochi, and the last time an American won a medal was back in 1924 when Anders Haugen won bronze on the large hill.
There wasn't a single American in the men's individual final after all four team members were knocked out in the first two cuts of both the normal and large hill events. The highest finish by any American man in both disciplines was Nicholas Alexander's 34th-place finish on the normal hill.
Then, in the men's team discipline, Team USA finished the qualifying round in 10th place (out of 12 teams) and failed to reach the final, as noted by Greg Ferraro of NBC:
USA finishes 10th and will not qualify. #skijumping— Greg Ferraro (@GFerraroNBC) February 17, 2014
Of course, this wasn't an unexpected series of results, according to SportsNetwork.com, via FoxNews.com: "Nick Fairall won the U.S. Olympic trials in December, but the Americans are not expected to medal in the men's event. No American has placed in the top 10 of an Olympic ski jumping event since 1988..."
The closest anyone came to a podium finish this time around was Jessica Jerome's 10th-place finish on the ladies' normal hill.
Clearly, the U.S. ski jumping team is in need of some huge improvements heading into 2018 if the Americans have any chance of becoming relevant as an Olympic force.
Funding is an issue the team must continue to address as it continues fighting for said relevancy.
As it is with many things, sponsors prioritize their allocated money toward Olympic athletes and disciplines of a high-profile nature. To this point, Team USA's ski jumping squad hasn't been high on that list, but there's a glimmer of hope for the future.
“It’s been really tough,” Anders Johnson said, via Luke Graham of SteamboatToday.com. “But this has been the first time in a long time our team is starting to fund top athletes. It started two years ago. We got a lot of committed sponsors, and we have a group of four guys that don’t have to pay too much.”
Meanwhile, jumpers from other, more competitive nations, like Switzerland’s Gregor Deschwanden, are fully supported by their team and are sometimes paid for performing well, per Graham.
How long will it take for America to win another ski jumping medal?
Until the U.S. athletes are given the same kind of support as the top teams internationally, Team USA will continue to place poorly during Olympics competitions.
Thankfully, it appears the women are on their way to challenging for a medal in 2018 or 2022. In addition to Jerome's 10th-place finish, Lindsey Van came in 15th place to give the Americans two competitors in the top 15.
If the sponsors continue to increase for American jumpers, then you can bet the team's ability to finish among the leaders will increase as well. More money equals better training amenities, more training time and more peace of mind.
At this point, however, Team USA still has a long way to go before it can compete with the European nations that have been dominating the sport for decades.
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