'Fly Girls' is launching next wave of women ski jumpers
Park City • As she relaxed in her basement in Steamboat Springs, Colo., Logan Sankey was called upstairs by her father. He sat her down and gave her the news about a potentially life-changing opportunity an invitation to train in Park City with the best young female ski jumpers in the nation: the Fly Girls pilot program.
Bubbling with anticipation, Sankey joined seven other girls for a five-week camp here at Utah Olympic Park.
"This is an amazing opportunity to see what the future of this sport has for me," the 16-year-old Sankey said.
Before Sarah Hendrickson, Lindsey Van and the rest of the American women jumped at the Sochi Winter Games for the first time earlier this year, the future of the sport in the U.S. was already being discussed.
"Everyone has been quietly wondering where the next level of athletes were going to come from," said Alan Alborn, head coach of the U.S. women's ski jumping team.
Look no farther than the Park City-based women's ski jumping program. Fly Girls creates and fosters a legacy for the sport as it molds the next generation of female U.S. ski jumpers.
Sankey was one of many girls who were inspired by the Olympics.
"I can see a future for me in the sport, [and] that was a turning point for me," she said, adding that participating in the program has made her so much more determined to make it to the highest stage. The eight young athletes will eat, sleep and jump. They are surrounded by the best training facilities in the U.S., while receiving instruction from Alborn, his staff and the pioneering women of the U.S. ski jumping team.
"It's great to see the sport evolving where we work on developing ladies of the next generation," said Van, a world champion who was at the forefront in the long-running battle to add women's ski jumping to the Winter Olympics a fight that ended in victory and a debut in Sochi. "They have a lot more opportunities at this age than I had."
Gabby Armstrong, a 15-year-old from Lake Placid, N.Y., calls Fly Girls is an exclusive opportunity, and says she always dreamed about living in Park City.
Armstong said the only thing greater than that dream is the few moments of perfection when floating through the air on a jump.
"It's hard to describe; you have to feel it," Armstrong said of rocketing off the jump and into the air.
After the camp concludes, some of the girls will be invited to join the national team, which is the next step toward the ultimate goal of the Olympics.
All of the girls say the same thing: Their dreams are possible because of Van, who is a coach, a mentor and a role model to all of them.
The Olympics are "an option for me because of Lindsey," said Armstrong.
She said while Van never knew if Van herself would be able to compete in the Olympics, Van pushed on with her fellow U.S. team members and women's ski jumpers around the globe.
"She was fighting for it, for our generation," Armstrong said.
U.S. women's ski jumping fundraiser
O What • Annual gala for women's ski jumping USA
When • July 17 at Montage Deer Valley, 6-9 p.m.
Tickets and info • http://www.wsjusa.com
About • Meet the inaugural Olympic women's ski jumping team and members of the new Fly Girls teams.
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