Kai McKinnon returns home following historic results

Kai McKinnon.(Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien)

LAKE PLACID — For the past two and half weeks, Kai McKinnon, of Lake Placid, has been on the road competing in major Nordic combined competitions, including the FIS Nordic Junior World Ski Championships in Planica, Slovenia, where she posted historic results.

On Wednesday, the 15-year-old McKinnon was treated to surprise party at the base lodge of the Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid, hosted by her hometown club, the New York Ski Educational Foundation.

“I was actually super excited to get home and see all my family and friends and jump on my home hills,” McKinnon said. “It’s awesome to see all these people here just watching me and supporting me and congratulating me.”

In attendance was her family, friends, fellow NYSEF athletes and coaches, as well as other local dignitaries who were celebrating her recent success.

McKinnon has constantly been on the road competing in various Nordic combined events across the country and the world. During the winter season, she takes part in NYSEF’s Winter Term program, where she is able to remotely participate in the school’s curricula through one-on-one tutoring support with NYSEF. In the fall and spring, she attends Lake Placid High School.

Kai McKinnon, left, signs an autograph for her mother Jodi McKinnon during her suprise party at the base lodge of the Olympic Jumping Complex on Wednesday. (Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien)

While in Slovenia for the Junior World Championships on Feb. 9, she had her best performance of the season. McKinnon placed sixth in the individual competition — a result she wasn’t expecting.

A little over a week prior, she placed 16th out of 21 competitors in the Youth Olympics in Gangwon, South Korea.

“I didn’t do that great at the Youth Olympics, so going into Junior Worlds I was hoping for a top 20,” McKinnon said. “I ended up with a good jump result and everything just snapped into place and I got sixth and it was incredible.”

McKinnon backed up her impressive individual finish by making history the following day when she, alongside her U.S. teammate Alexa Brabec, became the first-ever women’s Nordic combined team to earn a medal at Junior Worlds.

“To be the first American to get silver with my partner was incredible,” McKinnon said. “To make history like that was such an incredible feeling.”

After McKinnon walked through the Olympic Jumping Complex base lodge doors on Wednesday, NYSEF executive director John Norton, state Olympic Regional Development Authority President and CEO Ashley Walden and McKinnon’s NYSEF coaches Colin Delaney and Larry Stone spoke to the crowd about McKinnon’s accomplishments.

Delaney recalled what it was like, watching McKinnon compete in Slovenia, while he was helping out with the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup this past weekend.

“In between laps on the gondola, I was watching the race and jumping up and down celebrating with my wife Caitlin,” he said.

Delaney added that he always knew McKinnon was capable of competing with some of the worlds best Nordic combined athlete.

“Especially on the cross-country skis, but it was a surprise when the jumping turned around after Korea,” he said. “You really crushed it and rose to the occasion. You were able to put down your best jumps even under pressure. I’m super happy for you and super excited for the rest of the year and seasons to come.”

McKinnon’s jumping coach, Larry Stone, said he wasn’t shocked by her performance at the World Junior level.

“It’s been a long road for Kai and she has persevered through,” he said. “If anybody really knows this sport it is not an easy road and you’ve got ups and downs and it can be so frustrating. Kai had her frustrations, along with every other top athlete that has ever competed in anything actually, but in jumping especially.

“I am so happy to see that everything came together,” Stone added. “She has persevered when she didn’t see a way forward. She was so frustrated a couple of years ago between jumps she would come up and tear up and say, ‘I just can’t do this.’ ‘Yes, you can.’ She has persevered and developed into not only an amazing athlete, but she’s an amazing person.”

Despite the celebratory party, McKinnon’s Nordic combined season isn’t over just yet. In fact, she is competing this weekend in Brattleboro, Vermont at the Harris Hill competition before return ing home for the cross-country Junior Nationals from March 11 to 16.


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