Richmond-Burton's Patrick Gasienica jumps at Norge Ski Club's International Winter Tournament

When Patrick Gasienica is gearing up for a jump, he doesn’t hear anything. In the air, he doesn’t think much of anything. 

Unless it’s a particularly great jump. 

“If I have a really good jump and I was going really far, it would be like, ‘Wow, this is awesome,’ ” Gasienica said. “I wish everyone could feel it. Unfortunately, you have to put in a lot of training and work.” 

The training has paid off for the 18-year-old Richmond-Burton senior, who took third this weekend at Norge Ski Club’s International Winter Tournament in Class A, the highest level of competition.

Gasienica trains at Norge and was one of three Norge members to participate in the USANA FIS Nordic Junior World Ski Championships earlier this month in Park City, Utah, along with Cara Larson, 16, and Casey Larson, 18, both of Barrington. This was the second time Gasienica participated in Junior Worlds.

Gasienica’s father and his grandfather were ski jumpers in Poland. Patrick’s father, Albert Gasienica, moved to the United States as a teenager. Patrick has been ski jumping since he was about 8 years old. 

“It runs in my family,” he said. 

Young ski jumpers start on the smaller hills: 5 meters, 10 meters, 20, all the way up to 90 and 120 meters.

Gasienica first jumped a 90-meter hill when he was 12. 

His coach at Norge, Scott Smith, has been working with him for about six years, although he has known Albert for even longer. 

“[Patrick] is a very talented jumper,” Smith said. “He’s not afraid. He loves to go far. It’s a sport where when you get to that high level, you have to go to the bottom of the hill to win. Some jumpers get a little nervous going really far even though that’s where it’s at.”

Practicing at Norge lately has been challenging. Warm weather has kept snow off the ground and even forced Norge’s signature event, its 112-year-old International Winter Tournament, to be postponed from Jan. 21-22 until this weekend. 

Gasienica said it actually is easier to practice in the summer, when they use a porcelain track and a turf landing hill. In the winter, using the natural surface, skiers can’t jump unless there’s snow. Gasienica said he still goes to the gym every day, even when he can’t jump. 

Smith estimates Gasienica is the fifth or sixth Norge skier to qualify for Junior Worlds. The competition in Utah was tough. Gasienica finished 53rd in the 100-meter hill size and was a member of the United States team that finished 11th on the 100-meter hill. 

“Junior worlds was a good experience,” he said. “I could have done way better, but I’ve got next year.”

Smith noted that the weather hindered Gasienica’s ability to practice. Before this weekend’s tournament, Norge members had not jumped the hill since the summer.

“It’s a great achievement to make the Junior Worlds team,” Smith said. “The biggest thing with Patrick, with living here, it’s tough with weather like this. You can’t jump. Our biggest challenge right now is getting him on skis and jumping.” 

Gasienica also plays soccer at Richmond-Burton. He said he plans to attend McHenry County College and continue to pursue ski jumping after high school. 

Norge has a total of about 40 kids in its ski jumping program. Smith coaches a handful of the more experienced ski jumpers. 

The Winter Tournament at Norge this weekend was another chance for Gasienica to jump on his home turf. 

“I just like the feeling you get when you’re through the air, flying,” Gasienica said. “It’s the rush you get. It’s surreal. It’s an amazing experience and feeling.”

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