Michael Glasder might have been 7,000 miles away from where he first started ski jumping on a 10-meter hill as a kid, but the Cary resident and first-time Olympian felt every bit the love and support from back home.
Glasder, one of three ski jumpers from Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove to qualify for the 2018 Winter Games in February in Pyeongchang, South Korea, got many messages of support and words of encouragement from family, friends and fans.
“The best thing about going over there was having all of the support from everyone back home, whether it was friends, family or people that have seen me jump before at Norge,” Glasder said.
“That really made it all worthwhile, getting all the messages and notes from everyone, saying, ‘Good luck. We wish you the best. And it doesn’t matter if you win or get last place.’ That was awesome.”
Before last year, nobody from Norge had ever competed in the Olympics in the club’s now 114-year history.
On Sunday, Glasder, 29, will fly high at Norge’s winter ski jump tournament for the first time since 2014 and be introduced as the club’s first Olympian during opening ceremonies. The club’s two other Olympians, Kevin Bickner, 22, of Wauconda, and Casey Larson, 20, of Barrington, will be in Europe during the event.
Glasder will compete among a crowded field of talented athletes, including top jumpers from Norway, Finland and Slovenia.
Although Glasder has been back to Norge a number of times over the past few years, including this summer, Sunday’s competition will be his first at the club in five years. He’s expecting quite a bit of family and friends to be in attendance.
The rowdy crowds and excitement at Norge can’t be beat, Glasder said.
“I’m really just looking forward to the atmosphere with friends and family,” Glasder said. “Most of them haven’t been able to see me jump in person that much because all of our competitions are overseas.
“The crowds aren’t as big as over in Europe, but I think the biggest crowds we have in the U.S. are at Norge; it’s a really enclosed area. You can hear the roar at the top of the jumps, and it’s almost deafening up there. You can pick a few screams out in the crowd every once in a while, which is kind of fun.”
Glasder mulled retirement after the Olympics but continued because “as long as I’m having fun, I’ll keep doing it.” He suffered a concussion shortly after competing in the U.S. Ski Jumping and Nordic Championships in July in Park City, Utah.
Even that didn’t stop him. Norge will be one of the first events Glasder has jumped in since the concussion.
“It’s a pretty big break for me,” Glasder said. “The longest break I’ve had before is probably six weeks. It’s kind of like riding a bike, but, obviously, it will take a little longer for me to get back to full strength and everything. I’m just excited to get back, start fresh from a clean slate and have some fun with it.”
Glasder’s first memories of Norge are a little hazy. He was only 5 when he first started jumping. The club has drastically changed since then, but the same atmosphere and pull of Norge still is there.
Getting your first big air and the feeling that overcomes you is something that’s hard to explain, Glasder said.
“The first memory I have is going out on the old 10-meter hill. That’s when I really got hooked,” he said. “That’s when, as a little kid, you actually start to get a little bit of airtime. Not much, but enough to get excited. Pretty much after that, I was hooked. You couldn’t keep me away.”
Not much has changed for Glasder since the Olympics. Glasder, Bickner and Larson were inducted into the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame in August. Glasder has picked up some construction jobs to stay busy, but he continues to do what he loves most.
Giving back to Norge and helping grow ski jumping is something that’s been on Glasder’s mind more recently. When he’s home, Glasder will help the club and coaches, talk to younger ski jumpers, and he’s even been known to make a little snow.
“The club has had a big part to do with my development as an elite-level athlete,” Glasder said. “They’ve helped me out so much, and I feel like I have gained a lot of valuable knowledge over the years and that could help out a lot of these younger kids. It’s important for me, the club and also for the sport in the U.S. to keep it going.
“It’s obviously not the biggest sport in the U.S., so it’s important to keep kids coming back time and time again until they can hopefully get to the level that I’ve been able to get to. Hopefully, I can find more time to help out in the future.”
Fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming an Olympic athlete is something Glasder knows couldn’t be done alone.
“It’s something I wanted to do ever since I was a little kid, and I’m happy to have the support of my family and everybody in the community that helped me get out there and accomplish those big dreams,” Glasder said.
Now, he’s ready for his homecoming.