LAKE PLACID - Chris Lamb, Nina Lussi and A.J. Brown claimed championships on the 90-meter hill Wednesday at the 56th annual New Years Masters Ski Jump competition in Lake Placid.
Just 18 athletes participated in this year's event, but a number of the jumpers who competed have Olympic aspirations, and more than one of those athletes will most likely be representing the United States in future Winter Games.
Wednesday's contest included a trial jump followed by two competitive rounds in women's, junior and open divisions.
Lake Placid’s Nina Lussi takes flight during Wednesday’s 56th annual New Years Masters Ski Jump event in Lake Placid.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Lamb, a 21-year-old Andover, N.H. native and graduate of the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, soared to the title in the open division. He landed the two longest jumps of the day - 94- and 97.5-meter efforts - for a winning total of 255.5 points.
"It was a good day," Lamb said. "I feel like I'm jumping at a pretty good level, and today, I just let myself do what I've been working on. It wasn't a deep field, so this was a more of a fun event. I just wanted to go out and enjoy the competition, but obviously, my goal was to win."
Lamb, a member of the United States Ski Jumping Team, returned to the United States for the holiday break from Norway, where he has been training with that country's national squad.
"I'll be training in Lake Placid for two more weeks, and then head back to Norway," Lamb said. "Norway has one of the strongest teams in the world right now, and I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to train with them. When I'm competing, I'm jumping with the Norwegians but representing the U.S."
In addition to having his name added to the Masters Trophy, Lamb also collected $400 for the victory. Lamb finished well ahead of runner-up Nick Fairall, another U.S. Ski Team jumper hailing from Andover. Fairall laid down jumps of 90 and 90.5 meters for a second-place 228 total, but his effort was good enough to claim the biggest reward of the day - the Art Devlin Cup, which is awarded to the jumper who garnered the most points in the combined three jumping events held during the year in Lake Placid. Fairall attended the July 4 event, the Flaming Leaves competition in October and Wednesday's contest, which is the only one of the trio of contests held on snow.
Lake Placid's Andrew Bliss, a student at Saint Lawrence University, rounded out the top three in the open division. He put down jumps of 86.5 and 87.5 meters worth 216 points. Saranac Lake's Alex Madden was the other area native competing in the open division, finishing seventh with jumps of 62.5 and 66.5 meters and 114.5 points.
Fairall saw his week get off to a rocky start when he crashed during training Monday on the big 120-meter hill, but was able to rebound with two consistent efforts in Wednesday's competition. Along with having his name added to the Art Devlin Cup, Fairall was awarded $1,000 for his excellence during the three annual jumping events in Lake Placid.
"My goal was just to jump better today. I crashed pretty hard on the big hill Monday, and it kind of rattled me," Fairall said. "My muscles still hurt. Today, my goal was just get back to basics, have a good foundation and have good technique. I definitely had much more confidence today than I did yesterday in training.
"I wasn't even thinking about winning (the overall title)," Fairall added. "In terms of the Cup, I didn't even know I was in contention until this morning. I guess things worked out pretty well."
Fairall is among the American ski jumpers eyeing in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and is competing this season in Europe on the Continental Cup and FIS levels.
"Last year didn't go very well for me, and I didn't have that good of a summer, so I'm hoping this winter will be somewhat better in terms of my jumping," Fairall said. "This year, we are eliminating our access to the World Cup. As a team, we want to make sure we are in good shape for the future instead of just barely getting World Cup points now. We've started a new program, USA Ski Jumping, and that's a step in the right direction. We aren't expecting immediate results, but with this program, I'm sure we will have contenders in the future at the big events."
Brown, a 13-year-old from Illinois, may be one of those future contenders for the U.S. Ski Team. He soared past eight other competitors to capture the junior title with identical jumps of 90 meters and 219.5 points. The junior competition was the tightest on Wednesday, with Zach Daniels finishing a close second with jumps of 91 and 86.5 meters and 218 points.
Spencer Knickerbocker finished third with 88.5- and 85.5-meter efforts and 207.5 points.
The women's division only had two competitors, and it was a sister act as Lake Placid's Nina and Danielle Lussi went head to head to the hill. They are both back to be with their family for the holidays. Wednesday belonged to the younger sister as Nina soared to the win.
Nina is attending school in Austria, where she is pursuing ski jumping and looking toward a berth in a future Olympics if women's ski jumping is added to the Winter Games as a sport. Danielle, meanwhile, has somewhat stepped away from the sport of ski jumping and is a freshman at Harvard University.
Nina won with jumps of 81.5 and 75 meters and 174 points. Meanwhile, Danielle put down jumps of 57 and 54 meters to finish with 72.5 points, but she still earned a trip to the podium after the contest. Their younger brother, Miles, was also in the competition, placing eighth in the junior division.
"It was nice to be back and seeing Danielle competing," Nina Lussi said. "It's cool to be together in Lake Placid again after we've both gone our separate ways with her at Harvard and me at school in Austria.
"I don't think she's too crazy about seeing her younger sister going a little farther on the hill, but for me it was pretty nice," Nina added. "It's been a nice family reunion I would say."