From the top of the jumping tower at the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove, the view is of a new season, with yellow and orange tints in the trees marking the change.
For 8-time U.S. champion Jessica Jerome and the other women who will see that panorama as they compete in Saturday's K70 national championship, the view also is of a new era in their sport, with the tint of sexism fading into the past -- even if the poster announcing the event on the Norges web site lists only the top men.
As they look into the distance, they can see the
For athletes like Jerome, 24, jumping pioneers a decade ago, the
Jerome had spent the years leading up to Vancouver training in Park City, Utah with some of the jumpers and Nordic combined athletes who would compete at the
"I felt like it was a party I wasn't invited to," she said.
When the IOC announced April 6 it would extend that invitation, the other top U.S. women jumpers were gathered together in Utah but Jerome got the news in an Internet cafe while vacationing on the Thai island of Ko Phi Phi. When her traveling companions -- including 2010 Olympic jumper Anders Johnson -- suggested celebrating with a beer, she replied, "I'm just going to bed."
"Part of me wanted to be there with my teammates but it also wasn't something I wanted to handle if it didn't go the right way,'' she said. "My reaction was like, `Finally, OK.' It was more relief than celebration."
Jerome isn't sure if she would have embarked on an 11th season of international competition had the IOC said no again. After all, it has taken her six years to get halfway through college, and she still lives with her mother to break even financially. She also has begun to feel old, especially seeing 15-year-olds coming into the sport with knowledge about diet, training and nutrition given to her much later.
"I have a lot of other things I want to accomplish beyond skiing," Jerome said. "But this is all I have known for so long."
One of those precocious newcomers, Sarah Hendrickson, 17, won Saturday's 70k event. Hendrickson was 13 in 2008 when she became the youngest athlete ever named to the U.S. ski team in a Nordic sport.
This was the first U.S. title for Hendrickson, who had been second four times. With jumps of 68.5 and 73 meters, she easily defeated Alissa Johnson, with Jerome third.