SKI JUMPING IS HOT (AND WET) AT SPORTS PARK

Published: Sunday, Aug. 1 1993 12:00 a.m. MDT

One official called it a day for skiers and the U.S. Ski Team. Which may have sounded a little ironic considering outside temperatures were hot enough to melt ice cubes in minutes.

But there was a large pool of water for ski jumping and that made it all right for the 400 or so guests gathered for the dedication of the summer sports facilities at the Winter Sports Park.Winter athletes began conducting jumps at the park in January. It wasn't until this week, however, that some of the more attractive features of the park were unveiled.

During July, ski jumpers began flying off the 90-meter jumps, which were covered in bead-like plastic, and landing on a spaghetti-like plastic on the outrun. The distance-jumpers said that jumping in the summer will make the difference between jumping in the next Olympics and watching.

Saturday, during official dedication functions, Frank Joklik, chairman of the Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee, summed up the importance of the summer features when he told the group, "This is a historic moment for all of us in Utah that will certainly be followed by some very important sporting events."

Randy Dryer, chairman of the Utah Sports Authority, welcomed guests to the dedication; Gov. Mike Leavitt gave the official dedicatory address. Tom Welch, president of the SLOBC, told of the importance of the facility to Utah's Olympic cause; and Gene Moser, chairman of the Summit County Commission, spoke on the importance of the facility to the community.

Speeches completed, Trace Worthington, ranked number one in freestyle skiing in the world for the past two years, set the mood for the rest of the day. He left the lip of the largest freestyle jump, soared some 50 feet in the air, all the time twisting and turning, and landed, ski-bases first, in the pool of water.

For an inaugural jump, it was perfect for Worthington and for the facility - difficult, precise, exciting, on the mark.

There are four freestyle jumps into the Olympic-size pool, some with a more gentle inrun than others. Athletes ski down a plastic mesh, experience takeoff, complete their aerial movement, and land in water. A special air system on the bottom of the pool shoots bubbles to the top to break up the density of the water and make for a softer landing.

Kristean Porter, an aerialist from Greenland, N.H., said the facility is similar to one in Lake Placid, N.Y., the only other freestyle jumping pool in the country, but the Utah facility has some better features.

"The transition here is much, much better. It gives you time to set up. You can't even swing your arms at Lake Placid before you're off the jump," she said.

Worthington was much more definite in his opinion of the facility.

"This is by far the best facility of its kind in the world - no question about it. These jumps are identical to the ones we use in competition during the winter. This is going to give the whole U.S. team a big advantage," he said.

What it means to him is the opportunity to polish his jumps, which are considered some of the most difficult in aerial freestyle . . . including what is listed as the most difficult jump of all - a triple somersault with four twists. Worthington hit it perfectly, ski bases parallel to the water, body rigid.

"He hits that one in the Olympics like he did just then, and he'll have a gold medal," said Tom Kelly, communications director for the U.S. Ski Team.

Thus far about $16 million has been spent on the park, including jumping facilities and infrastructure. Next on the building schedule in 1994 is the bobsled/luge track. The park will now be open for public viewing.

It will open today for jumping competition off the 90-meter jump. Jumping will start at 11 a.m. and will be open to the public. Cost is $2 per person or $5 a carload.

Through the summer, spectators can watch jumping off the 90-meter and the freestyle Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost here is also $2 per person or $5 per carload.

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