Johnson, Frenette, Alexander on team
The U.S. ski jumping team will go to Vancouver with an Olympic veteran making a comeback and a Winter Games novice enjoying a breakout season.
Anders Johnson, 20, who jumped in Torino at age 16 and is coming off a knee injury, is joined by 21-year-old Nick Alexander of Lebanon, N.H., and Peter Frenette, 19, of Lake Placid, N.Y.
Johnson tore up a knee last summer and qualified at the last moment for his second Olympic Games.
Alexander, known as "Zander," is the hot new American jumper on the world circuit this year after following up his surprising successes last year with a solid, steady season.
Frenette is another up-and-coming jumper who could help persuade the U.S. Ski team to renew its funding of the classic winter sport that has had no financial support from the governing body following the retirements of Alan Alborn and Clint Jones after the 2006 Games.
Alexander broke into the world jumping scene this season, qualifying for six World Cup events. The 2010 U.S. champion was the top American in the International Ski Federation's Continental Cup last season and is the U.S. leader this year after strong results this month in Germany.
"If you polled the die-hard ski jumpers in this country and asked them who's the hot ski jumper today in the United States, I think they'd all say it's Zander," U.S. Nordic director John Farra said.
"What he did this summer on the Summer Grand Prix, he had four or five events where he scored World Cup points and that got everybody's attention," Farra said. "He hasn't had an amazing season this year, but he's been qualifying into the rounds, and that's something that no one else has been doing, so for sure he's a standout and we're excited about having him at the Games."
Johnson, the youngest skier ever named to a U.S. Olympic team when he qualified for the Torino Games, is coming off a knee injury he suffered last summer while jumping at Park City, Utah, and he broke into the points twice at the Continental Cup in Sapporo, Japan, earlier this month to earn a spot on the Olympic team.
"He was pronounced done by most medical folks. The kind of damage he did to his knee in late summer should have been a season-ending injury," Farra told The Associated Press. "But he went into our Center of Excellence in Park City, and I'm not sure you could find somebody who went in there more often and took it more seriously and just decided there was no way in heck he was giving up his dream of going to the Olympics this year."
After an operation to replace his left anterior cruciate ligament, Johnson returned to the jump hills in late November and did not jump particularly well at first.
"I'm sure he had some anxiety and wasn't launching like he could and he came on literally the last week of qualifying, he scored World Cup points on the Continental Cup that ended up qualifying him for the Olympics," Farra said.
"He improved at a consistent rate and just in time," Farra said.
Frenette has had three point-scoring finishes in the Continental Cup.
The trio, who had earned Olympic quota spots based on World Cup results, was announced Wednesday by Bill Marolt, president and CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. The team, subject to the approval of the U.S. Olympic Committee, will be coached by former East German jumper Jochen Danneberg, a 1976 Olympic silver medalist.
The normal hill ski jump will be the first event contested at the Vancouver Games, on Feb. 13. Individual qualification is Feb. 12 at Whistler Olympic Park, eight hours before the opening ceremony in Vancouver.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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