LAKE PLACID - While much of the local spotlight was on the Olympics this winter, ski jumper Nina Lussi quietly had a stellar season.
Lussi, a Lake Placid native who turns 20 on Saturday, took the top spot in the overall women's Continental Cup standings with 298 points. Susanna Forsstrom of Finland was second with 257 points and Juliane Seyfarth of Germany came in third with 251 points.
Lussi put herself in position to win the overall standings with a gold medal in Falun, Sweden on March 1, earning her first Continental Cup victory with jumps of 81 and 80.5 meters for 181 points. That put her ahead of 17-year-old Joanna Szwab of Poland, who had jumps of 83 and 77.5 meters for 177.2 points.
Nina Lussi reacts after making a jump at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Dec. 29 in Park City, Utah.
(Photo — Sarah Brunson/USSA)
"That was a pretty amazing situation," Lussi said Tuesday in a phone interview. "I was hoping to get some top 5s this season, but I hadn't seen myself at the top of the podium, so that was really pretty awesome."
She followed that up with a second-place finish the next day.
Lussi was first in the overall standings after the Sweden competitions, with only one Cup event remaining in the season. That competition on March 15 and 16 in Ruhpolding, Germany was canceled due to bad weather, which was OK with Lussi.
"I had already decided before that, that I wasn't going to add that to my schedule just because it was a risk with weather and stuff, and I didn't think it would happen," Lussi said. "And it ended up getting canceled, which worked in my favor because that meant that I clinched the Continental Cup overall win for the year."
This was an eventful year for Lussi other than winning the Continental Cup. She also competed in the first-ever Olympic team trials for women's ski jumping, which made its debut at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games in February. The competition took place in Park City, Utah, where Lussi now calls home.
"The Olympic trials out here that was an amazing experience," Lussi said. "There were so many people. Usually in the U.S., we don't get that many fans at our events, but people were shouting our names and they knew who we were and made signs. It was nice, especially to be at home, well kind of at home, and have so many people rooting for you. It was amazing."
Lussi didn't make the Olympic team but she hopes to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
"I'm still young so it wasn't really a make-it-or-break-it situation," she said. "I think being able to be part of it was great, and we ended up sending a really strong team over. And I think that, yeah, it's going to make me work a lot harder to try and be at that level in four years."
Lussi credits a few things with her having such a strong season. One is she felt more comfortable handling the mental aspects of the sport and being focused this season. She also finished up the winter sports school called Skigymnasium Stams, in Tirol, Austria that she had been attending for high school this past summer. That meant she's spent the whole season in one program: the U.S. Ski Jumping Team. In the past, she switched between the U.S. program and the school's program.
Later in the winter, she also got to spend extra time with new U.S. team coach Erik Renmaelmo of Norway. Renmaelmo was hired early in the winter, which meant he wasn't eligible to coach the team in the Olympics. So he spent February with Lussi and some other U.S. ski jumpers.
"While everyone was at the Olympics, a few of us were able to train with him in Norway, which is really fun," she said. "He really showed us the true Norway, and it was really nice."
Lussi is hoping to build off her strong results this season when she returns to action. She's hoping to get back on the World Cup level, where she has jumped since making her debut in 2012.
"I think skiing on the Continental Cup level was really good for confidence," she said. "So that will be really good for next season, and I'm going to try to work my way up to World Cup and hopefully wind up back in Falun for the World Championships."