The slopes of Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove served as the launchpad for three suburban Olympic hopefuls who likely have earned a spot on Team USA’s ski jump team, club officials said Tuesday.
The families of Michael Glasder of Cary, Kevin Bickner, formerly of Wauconda, and Casey Larson of Barrington shared their excitement at their sons’ dreams of competing coming true. Family members will be traveling to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month to cheer them on.
Glasder, 28, qualified at the Dec. 31 U.S. Olympic trials in Park City, Utah, while Bickner, 21, and Larson, 19, are awaiting official confirmation of their selection. There are four spots on the men’s ski jumping team.
“We are over the moon,” said Glasder’s mother, Kathy. “Excited, overjoyed, relieved and thankful.”
“We are humbled by it all,” added father Steve Glasder. “The work that he’s done … the commitment our club has to sponsor athletes … we’ve been looking for this a long time.”
Norge Ski Club — where all three athletes trained as children — is the oldest, continuously open ski club in the United States, founded in 1905 by Norwegian immigrants living in Chicago. This is the first time the club can boast of having one, let alone three Olympians.
“We’ve never had one (Olympian) ever in this club,” said Scott Smith, who has been coaching at Norge 30 years. “They all learned here.”
Glasder started learning at barely 5 years old and missed making the Olympic team by one spot for the last two Winter Games, said Smith, a member of the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame and coach of the 1992 Olympic squad.
“He was always driven, always focused,” Kathy Glasder said. “He liked that flying in the air feeling.”
Larson, a 2017 Barrington High School graduate, scored well at a competition last weekend in Turkey, putting him in the running for the Olympic team, said father Guy Larson of Lake Barrington.
“It’s really surreal right now,” he said. “It’s hard to completely comprehend. We are going to be really excited when they name the team. It’s a little nerve-racking. He had a bit of a slump this past summer. Ski jumping is one of the most technically and mentally difficult sports in the world. You have two jumps and that’s it. It’s a lot of pressure.”
Guy and Meg Larson will watch their 17-year-old daughter, Cara, and Casey compete at the Junior World Ski Championships in Kandersteg, Switzerland, before heading to South Korea.
Bickner, who started ski jumping at Norge at 10 and competing internationally the last three years, set the North American distance record jumping 244.5 meters (802 feet) in Vikersund, Norway, last March. He always had his sights set on the Olympics, said mother Maureen Bickner of Park City, Utah.
She along with husband Thomas Bickner, and daughter Kailey, 17, also a ski jumper, will watch Bickner compete.
“It’s just unbelievable,” she said. “They’ve gotten the best start (at Norge). They got so much attention, more so than any other club across the country.”
The trio is training with the club’s head coach, Bine Noric, in Slovenia. Olympic ski jumping qualifiers begin Feb. 8 followed by three competitions — 90 meters, 120 meters and team event — culminating Feb. 20.