LAKE BARRINGTON – Now that women’s ski jumping is an Olympic sport, a 13-year-old Lake Barrington resident has a new goal.
Barrington Middle School-Prairie student Cara Larson recently won the Junior National Ski Jumping Competition in Anchorage, Ala., competing against other young women under 18-years-old.
“It was really fun,” she said of the competition. “There were moose everywhere. We got really close. And the jumps were fabulous.”
Although this was her first time competing in the event, it was not her first time attending it. About five years ago, her brother Casey Larson, 15, started competing. He also competed this year, earning seventh place competing against young men under 18. On the men’s side, the top 10 finishers were all within two meters of each other.
The siblings, who come from a big skiing family, became interested in ski jumping when a babysitter would talk about his family’s experience with jumping. Casey Larson started jumping first, and as the family travelled from competition to competition, Cara Larson decided she wanted to give it a try as well. She’s been jumping since she was 5-years-old.
“Each jump has a completely different feel to it,” Cara Larson said. “You’re basically flying and it’s a really cool thing to do.”
Over the years, Cara Larson has progressed from practice-sized jumps to 70-meter jumps. In the Olympics, jumpers use 90- and 120-meter jumps.
“I watched all of it,” Cara Larson said of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. “It was really cool and a lot of the girls, they probably don’t remember me, but I know all of them.”
Because the world of ski jumping is so small, Cara Larson had previously met many of the Olympic athletes that recently competed, and she was cheering for Lindsey Van this year.
“She was the heart of the team,” Cara Larson said. “She really helped get ski jumping into the Olympics.”
Cara and Casey Larson train year round, practicing about six or seven hours every week during the season and using the summer for conditioning. Cara Larson also runs cross country and plays soccer, while Casey Larson runs cross country and plays lacrosse.
Cara Larson plans to compete in the Junior National Ski Jumping Competition for a couple more years, with the goal of competing in the Junior Worlds Competition after that and then making the 2018 Winter Olympic Team.
“Ski jumping is what I want to do in life and the Olympics is the last part of that,” she said. “That’s your success.”
She knows that practice is what it will take, and lots of it.
“I don’t want to be like every other person, I want to be better,” she said. “I still fall. People that are the best still fall. It’s just a matter of getting up and doing it again.”
Even though Casey Larson had his competition to focus on this year as well, he said it was really cool to watch his sister compete and do so well, acknowledging that this has been her “breakthrough winter.”
“I was so pumped to see her do so good,” he said.
An accomplished ski jumper himself, Casey Larson has placed in the top 10 every time he has competed in the Junior Nationals. His best performance though was at the Nationals competition in summer 2013, where he placed 15th in the nation among men of all ages.
“That was definitely one of my best competitions of my life,” he said. “It was pretty cool. It was exciting. I was pumped… Competing is the place where you can really prove yourself. You know what’s on the line.”
Casey Larson also has his sights set on the 2018 Winter Olympics, though he did acknowledge since ski jumpers can compete in their sport well into their 30s, he has some time. The Barrington High School freshman wants to see where the next few years take him.
“I’m always thinking about ski jumping,” he said. “That’s my main sport.”
And what is it like for a mother to watch her children skiing down a ramp at speeds of 45 mph or faster?
“The first time they go to a bigger jump, it is scary,” said Meg Larson, adding though that coaches won’t send them off a jump they aren’t ready for. “But, it’s exciting. It’s really exciting to watch them really excel.”