Lebanon Skiier Looks to Soar High Again
Lebanon native Nick Alexander jumps during the men’s Nordic combined U.S. Nationals in March 2008 in Park City, Utah. (Associated Press - Douglas C. Pizac)
Lebanon — Heading into the winter of 2011-12, Lebanon ski jumper Nick Alexander was intense, peeved and a little cocky.
Coming off several months of physical therapy treating a sprained ankle ligament, Alexander was frustrated not only by the injury, but that newcomer Pete Frenette had been designated Team USA’s “A” jumper — the only one on the team to receive free skis and boots as needed.
The son of outgoing Lebanon police chief Jim Alexander had one phrase to summarize his ambitions last year: “It’s time to go out and kick some (behind),” he said in 2011.
It didn’t quite turn out that way for Alexander, who re-aggravated his ankle during in-season training and had a second consecutive disappointing winter. In his fifth year as a regular on the Continental Cup (one step lower than World Cup-level circuits), Alexander placed 99th and third among five U.S. competitors. It was better than a 2010-11 season that landed him 110th overall and third in the U.S., but the results were still substandard for the 2009 U.S. champion and 2010 Olympian.
“Being in physical therapy over the summer was definitely a training deficit that was hard to recover from,” Alexander said in an interview last week. “Then to hurt the same ankle was another setback because I missed more training (between events) because of that.”
Alexander finished strong, nearly matching a season high with a 33rd-place, top-American finish in Germany on Sept. 22 and placing 45th the next day to wrap up the season. He said the ankle is back in prime shape.
“It really feels good; I’m finally jumping normally again,” said Alexander, who departed Friday to join teammates in Park City, Utah, for two weeks of training prior to the Continental Cup opener in Finland on Dec. 15-16. “I had some time off over the summer to focus on it and I probably jumped my best that last month of the season. It’s a big step and hopefully it will be a good (2012-13 season).”
Just how good, Alexander wouldn’t say. At 24 years old and about to embark on his seventh year of international competition, the National Sports Academy graduate has learned to curb the trumpeting of his expectations.
“I have goals, but I’m gong to keep them to myself,” he said. “When you start talking about your goals with people, you’re creating expectations and if you don’t reach them, it’s disappointing. After I reach the goals, then I’ll tell people about them.”
The offseason has been one of reflection for Alexander, who has become more conscious of the mental aspects of ski jumping. With judges glued to every jump on competition day, self-imposed pressure can be intrusive when allowed.
“It’s kind of like golf, where it can come down to one shot. Everyone gets one chance, and if you don’t have your best jump, that’s it,” Alexander said. “You have until (the next event) to think about it.”
With limited funding from the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, Alexander relies heavily on community support and held a fundraiser Nov. 18 at Storrs Hill Ski Area, where he learned to ski jump at age 10.
Alexander also saves his own money through part-time work, including a stint this fall working at a Lebanon funeral home. It was an experience that lent him perspective heading into the season.
“When you’re working during wakes and funerals, seeing peoples’ families ... It helped me think about what’s important in life,” he said. “You think about how you want to be remembered and about how much you appreciate having people who are really there for you.”
Alexander can qualify for his second Olympic berth with a strong season. Each participating nation will bring its top three jumpers to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, with a fourth listed as an alternate.
In 2010 in Vancouver, Alexander placed 11th in the team large hill, 40th in the individual large hill and 41st in the individual normal hill.
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.
This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The following correction ran in the Thursday, Nov. 29 edition of the Valley News:
Lebanon ski jumper Nick Alexander is looking to earn a berth in the 2014 Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi, Russia. The Olympic site was incorrectly reported in a story in yesterday's paper.