Three members of the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove who represented the United States at the Winter Olympics are back in the area and doing a little bit of celebrating.
Ski jumpers Mike Glasder, Kevin Bickner and Casey Larson from Norge headed to Wrigley Field Thursday to throw out the ceremonial first pitches at the Cubs game. Joining them was teammate Will Rhoads of Park City, Utah.
“This is a special place and a dream come true,” Glasder said of getting the opportunity to be on the fabled baseball field as part of the pregame tradition.
From 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, they all will be at the Norge Ski Club signing autographs and taking photos at a meet-and-greet that’s free and open to the public.
Glasder, Bickner and Larson were the first athletes from the 113-year-old Norge Ski Club ever to make the Olympics. It was the first time three people from the same club had been named to the U.S. Olympic ski jump team.
All three men – who live together in an apartment in Slovenia during ski jump season – said they are lifelong Cubs fans.
“It’s an awesome little perk,” Larson said of throwing out the first pitch.
Glasder has been home in Cary and recently has been working construction jobs with his father.
“It’s been nice to sleep in my own bed and to see my friends and family on my own schedule,” Glasder said.
As for their own recently-finished ski jump season, Glasder, 29, said, “It’s been a crazy busy year. I’m just getting settled down for a bit and relaxing. Then, within the next few weeks, I’ll be coming up with a game plan for the next season.”
Larson, 19, of Lake Barrington, said he’s been catching up on classes he’s taking online through the University of Utah. He will be heading out to Park City, Utah, in mid-May to resume training and to work landscaping and other jobs for a property management firm.
Larson felt he had a bit of sophomore slump this past season and struggled a bit, but considered all that happened a great learning experience. In off-Olympic years, he said ski jumping remains a popular spectator sport in Europe with big competitions and large crowds. He described the Olympic experience as inspiring.
“It was cool to see the best in the world and inspiring to see what you are trying to be,” Larson said.
That the three men were on the team together, “was pretty amazing and incredible for the club,” he said. He said it reflects well on Norge and on the club’s coach, Scott Smith.
“It’s been a crazy year. We had a lot more publicity, especially stateside, and that was cool to see,” Bickner said.
Bickner, 21, grew up in Wauconda but has lived in Park City since he was 16. His family has also moved there, where the U.S. ski jump team has its training facilities.
Bickner said he’s been taking online courses, too, through DeVry University and will be working a summer job while training for next ski jump season.
Bickner said along with competing in the Olympics, he enjoyed seeing the sites and experiencing Korean culture as well as meeting and befriending athletes.
Bickner said he took in quite a few other sports, including seeing U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin take the gold in the giant slalom and the U.S. men’s curling team win its first-ever gold in a match against Sweden.
“The vibe at curling is mellow and about having fun,” Bickner said.
Glasder said his lasting memories include marching into the opening ceremony with the U.S. Olympic team, which was the biggest one at this year’s games. He also saw the U.S. men’s curling team take the gold and the U.S. women’s hockey team win gold, beating archrival Canada in an overtime game that was decided in a shootout.
“Watching them win was a help for my own training. It was an inspiration,” Glasder said.
The three added that they were looking forward to Saturday and being at the place where they first took to ski jumping.
“It will be good to see people from the club who helped us along the way and to see other people who might stop by, too,” Larson said.