Spotlight on Ski Jumper Jessica Jerome
September 23, 2006
First Tracks Online Ski Magazine
Salt Lake City, UT - For the first time, the U.S. Ski Team has named women to its national ski jumping team. All five of the women named to the team ranked among the top 15 in the world a year ago. Jessica Jerome (Park City, UT) was No. 3 last season. She also is a four-time U.S. champion. Jerome chatted during a break between classes at Westminster College in Salt Lake City and before the women's schedule resumes in Europe.
Q: In May, the International Ski Federation (FIS) approved women's jumping for the 2009 World Championships in Liberec, CZE. It was a vital step toward including women's jumping in the Olympics, possibly in 2010. Vancouver's Olympic committee must approve the addition, and then it's up to the International Olympic Committee. How is that going?
Jerome: The IOC has a meeting in November, so we'll see. But the biggest hurdle definitely was the FIS Congress meetings in May. We all felt it would be good if we got approval for '09 and we did. We're staying positive and optimistic about everything.
Q: Casey Colby from the National Sports Foundation in Park City remains your head coach, but you've had to experience some big changes recently as you move under the U.S. Ski Team umbrella. Can you describe what it's been like?
Jerome: Well, we're in the weight room at the sports science facility three or four days a week, depending on this evil weight program Casey has us on where we're increasing weight every session. But that facility is so great, and the staff is so good, too. Susie [Parker-Simmons, USSA sports dietitian and physiologist] has given us nutrition programs, and she's working with us all the time... And, of course, it's definitely cool to be on the national team, although I don't think the five of us have thought about it that much. We're still on the same [jump] training program, but slowly all these other perks have been coming. ‘Oh, we have access to this? And we have access to that?' We've been getting more phone calls since the formal team naming, so that's definitely very positive. I think we can bring a lot of positive things to the Ski Team.
Q: How did Jessica Jerome, born in Jacksonville, Fla., get into ski jumping? Your dad tells me he was petrified because of the old ABC's "Wide World of Sports" footage of Vinko Bogataj, the guy from Yugoslavia, crashing at the 1970 World Championships. He was determined you wouldn't jump, but he said your mother was "more supportive" and prevailed.
Jerome: I don't recall that, but maybe Mom hid his feelings from me. But we had a visit at school one day - second grade, maybe, or third - from Matt Terwillegar [ex-National Sports Foundation coach and later U.S. development coach] who brought a video about ski jumping. I was in the back and thought, ‘This looks cool.' When we alpine skied, my brothers and I always would go and try to find jumps, so that fit in with it. I told my mother I wanted to try it and she was like, ‘Yeah, right - you can be sure I'll enroll you right away.' But I was persistent. Now my brothers have to follow their big sister, so they're jumpers, too.
Q: How are you dealing with being able to win on the women's Grand Prix tour, but so far not being able to get that top spot - yet - on the Continental Cup tour? How angering is that?
Jerome: Yeah, the other girls give me grief. ‘Jess, it's not that scary - you can do it,' and all that. ‘We know you can win.' I don't know why, but I'm dancing around it. I'll get rid of that mental block, or whatever it is.
Q: You women range in age from 17 [Abby Hughes, a high school junior] to 21 [Lindsey Van, a University of Utah student] and are a generally tight group with a very strong team dynamic. How do you all keep your ego in check?
Jerome: We've grown up together. We've jumped together for so long, and we've shared so much. We've been a team for a couple of years, not just now. We want to do well individually but we also really want each other to do well. That's genuine.