Mike Glasder doesn't quite know how to describe what it's like to fly. But the 2008 Cary-Grove graduate and member of the Norge Ski Club and Olympic hopeful ski jumper knows his athletic endeavor is at least unique. Glasder, who trains in Park City, Utah, remains in the running for a spot on the U.S. Olympic squad, which will compete this winter at the 2014 Sochi Games three years after he just missed out on a spot for the 2010 Vancouver Games.
(Flying) is really like nothing else in the world. Right from the instant I leave the take-off, I know if (the jump) is going to go short or if it's going to the bottom. If you have one of the jumps when you're going to go to the bottom, as soon as you leave the lift, you're just kind of along for the ride. You don't really have to work that much. You're there and you're just along for the ride just trying to go as far as possible. We're not trying to jump hard, we're more just trying to be relaxed and use fluid, smooth movements and that's what really translates to (longer) distances. It's really mental. The harder you try, the worst you do. It's kind of a weird sport that way.
I wasn't terribly good at ski jumping when I was younger. But at the age of 14, 15,16, things really started to turn around. I started making some junior world championship teams and after that, I was like, 'Well, this is what I'm going to be doing for years to come.' That feeling of flying through the air and that feeling of weightlessness doesn't compare to anything else I've ever done....It's like you're floating almost. Like gliding. It's relatable maybe to one of those flying squirrels where you're moving around a little bit and you can control where you go. That's kind of what it feels like to me.
I wouldn't really say I ever felt any fear. There were a couple of times when I was younger moving up to the larger sized hills, I was nervous. But even then, after you've done it for the first time, you're so amped up and excited that you can't wait to get up on the bigger hills again. That's basically what it's about – going far, getting to the highest and biggest hills you can. Every time you get up to a bigger hill and it's your first time, you really don't know how much pressure to expect in your face and speeds are a lot higher on the bigger hills. It's almost like a whole new experience.
I'm 24 years old right now and I've seen more of the world than most people will ever see in their lifetime. I feel really fortunate to be part of a sport where we get to travel to the places we do. Even though we're not doing the touristy stuff going around and we're just competing, we're still hanging out with people from that country and we get to experience the culture. That's one of the coolest things we get to do. We get to travel around the world – central Europe, Scandinavia, we've been to Korea and Japan. So it's really a world-wide sport.
Right now, I'm still putting my head down and grinding and trying to qualify (for the Olympics) and put my 100 percent forward. But to be able to be (in Sochi) and to represent the U.S. and my home club in Fox River Grove would be amazing. There's never been anyone from the Norge Ski Club that's gone to the Olympics as an athlete. So to be the first to do that – from my home club, which is over 100 year old – would be pretty amazing.
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