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Matti Nykänen: "Tiesin Janen päätöksestä jo aiemmin - upea homma!
Mäkihyppylegenda Matti Nykänen uskoo Janne Ahosen palaavan lajin kirkkaimmalle huipulle.
Päävalmentaja Nikunen: "Tämä kyllä yllätti minut positiivisesti
Mäkihyppymaajoukkueen päävalmentaja Tommi Nikunen yllättyi iloisesti Janne Ahosen päätöksestä.
Janne Ahosen yllätyspaljastus: Vielä yhdet olympiakisat!
Janne Ahonen kertoi IS:lle yllättäviä uutisia tulevaisuuden suunnitelmistaan.
After Funding Loss, the Maine Winter Sports Center Looks to the Community for Help
Maine Winter Sports Center logo

The Maine Winter Sports Center announced that come April it’s largest sponsor, the Libra Foundation, would cease funding. The Center is now working to raise enough funding so that it can continue operations in the coming years.

It was quite the shock when the Maine Winter Sport Center lost its biggest sponsor, the Libra Foundation, this past February. The Foundation, which had supplied roughly $1.4 million of the Center’s revenue in past season and over $33 million since the Center’s start 15 years ago, decided it was simply time to part ways and let the Center find success on its own.

While the pull of funds followed the guidelines to the Libra Foundation’s model facilitating the growth of community organizations, the suddenness of the withdrawal threw many within the Center into shock and jeopardized its ability to secure funding for the next fiscal year. Since then, the organization has been scrambling to gather donations for the coming year.

For those who haven’t been apart of the Maine Winter Sports Center it’s easy to think of the organization as another ski club that makes up part of the nordic community in the U.S. In reality, it is much more.

In providing the means for areas like Black Mountain and Rumford (site of the 2011 and 2012 Cross Country Championships) and the Nordic Heritage Center (host of the 2014 IBU World Youth/Junior Biathlon Championships) MWSC has established an infrastructure for nordic skiing to flourish in the state. In addition, with well over 4,000 youths involved in the Center’s programs, MWSC has been making an impact on its surrounding community.

In order to make sure that impact continues, Andy Shepard, President and CEO of MWSC, has been on an all-out blitz to secure as many donations as possible before the end of April.

His efforts have proven successful thus far, as the Center has raised roughly $810,000 since the February announcement.

“It’s not enough for us to run our full range of programs for the year. It’s enough to get started, but we have an ongoing funding campaign that ends this month,” Shepard said in a phone interview. “The sense of urgency around this is the fact that the fundraising campaign ends at the end of the month.”

US Biathlon staff snap a photo of the youth men's podium on Friday in Presque Isle, Maine, as represented in flags after Sean Doherty topped Germany by 1.7 seconds and Russia by nearly 19 seconds for the win. (Photo: Craig Cormier)

US Biathlon staff snap a photo of the podium in Presque Isle, Maine at the 2014 IBU Youth/Junior World Championships. The Nordic Heritage Center, which hosted the event, was supported by the Maine Winter Sports Club. The Nordic Heritage Center will now be part of the newly formed Aroostook Nordic Inc. which will continue to be supported by the Libra Foundation. (Photo: Craig Cormier)

Fortunately, the Center may have found some luck in a local benefactor. Mary Barton Smith, a Presque Isle, Maine native with ties to the origins of Silicon Valley, has offered a $400,000 matching gift that must be met by April 30th.

“[Smith] appreciates the work of the Maine Winter Sports Center,” said Shepard. “Her primary focus is on the health of Maine’s youth and realizes the role that the Maine Winter Sports Center is playing across the state, but particularly in Aroostook County on trying to address childhood obesity and create a healthier lifestyle.”

Smith has agreed to match any donations up to $400,000 by April 30th. Currently the Maine Winter Sports Center has raised $210,000 since the start of the matching campaign, most of which has come from donations of $5 or $10 from the local community. “[The gifts are] from individuals and families that have been a part of our program around the state or who respect the work that we do.”

“That’s encouraging to us because they’re coming from all over the state and other countries.”

In addition, several five-digit donations have been gifted, including a $25,000 from an anonymous donor.

As of now, the Maine Winter Sports Center is focused on securing as much funding as possible for next year. However, as soon as the money is secured, the emphasis will shift towards long-term sustainability.

While still in the initial phases of implementation, Shepard has about $310,000 in long-term sponsor agreements. He believes he can get that number up to $500,000 or $600,000.

“And then the focus beyond that is creating a foundation and focusing on creating an endowment to secure the long-term sustainability of the Center for generations to come,” he said.

With this major shift in its budget, the Maine Winter Sports Center will have to undergo some changes, but not enough for anyone affected by the Center’s programs to notice. One such change will be the split of the company into two separate organizations. Programming across the state will remain as the Maine Winter Sports Center and will be run by Shepard and a new operating board. The 10th Mountain and Nordic Heritage Centers will become Aroostook Nordic Inc., which will continue to be supported by the Libra Foundation.

Kris Freeman (Maine Winter Sports Center) heading into the lond descent down Whale's Tail on the fifth of six laps in the U.S. nationals 30 k freestyle mass start

Four-time Olympian Kris Freeman, who skied for the Maine Winter Sports Center in the 2013/2014 season, races in the 2014 U.S. Nationals 30 k freestyle mass start this past January. Freeman is leaving the center for the upcoming season.

“The takeaway of all of this, is that from the perspective of those in the community we don’t anticipate that they will see a change in what we’re doing. We’re going to continue to offer the programs that we have and in fact we have some plans on expanding some of our programs like the youth racing program that we’re looking to expand across the state,” said Shepard of the restructuring process.

“The question is with our resources how do we scale these programs to meet the emerging needs of the state of Maine in a sustainable way as possible. That’s what we need to figure out.”

Shepard has faith that everything will happen as it should, at the very least because of his excellent staff. “If anyone can figure out how to do this, it’s these guys,” he said.

One such staff member is Will Sweetser, Competitive Program Director and Cross Country Coach at the Center. According to the Dartmouth graduate, not much will change in regards to the competitive side of the Center. Most competitive team skiers will remain, such as Welly Ramsey and Omar Bermejo, with the exception of those headed to National Team for biathlon, like Russell Currier and Annalise Cook.

The only real change to the membership of the competitive team will be the departure of Kris Freeman, who joined the team this past season after leaving the U.S. Ski Team.

“[Kris] is pretty confidant in his funding abilities and is stepping away from the program requirements that would have him in Maine. He’s going to stay closer to home for the rest of his training,” said Sweetser. “The relationship with Kris is still really good. He and I still talk quite a bit and there is no negativity on either side.”

Despite a history of hosting top-tier athletes, further recruitment to the Maine Winter Sports Center’s elite team seems unlikely and as the organization continues forward they plan on finding their talent from within Maine.

“We were some of the first to recruit so-called elite-level athletes to the full-funded club program. We started that 12 years ago, but in the years that have come we have built a strong enough structure in Maine that we seem to be able to generate enough national level and beginning international level athletes. It’s not really necessary for us to look outside state borders,” said Sweetser. 

With a successful fundraising campaign and a continued plan to grow the Center’s capacity, Sweetser believes the development program will continue to mature.”We’ll see the Maine Winter Sports Center evolve in a more robust Olympic development program for the state of Maine. It’s my contention that you’ll see other sport clubs follow our lead when we’re able to do that.”

“We really do capture the imagination of young Maine athletes looking to go beyond the high school ranks, and they see kids and young adults in their neighborhood who are able to pursue their dreams in college and after college right here at home. I think that’s a really valuable tool for our state. I look forward to seeing that continue.”

At the end of the day, Shepard believes that the Maine Winter Sports Center is an essential centerpiece to the Maine’s sports culture and society. With programs in 140 communities across Maine, it’s hard to imagine the loss that Center would not only have on the Maine community, but the nordic ski community across the country.

“The Maine Winter Sports Center has a 15 year track record of making a difference in Maine. Our programs have been recognized around the country and around the world. There’s a tremendous amount of respect for what we do and how we do it and the past eight weeks have demonstrated in a most profound way how important what we do is to the people of Maine.”

To donate to the Maine Winter Sports Center access their website here, or send to Maine Winter Sports Center, 552 Main St. Caribou, ME 04736.

USSA National U16 Camp Announces Selections and Program for 2014

ussa nnf logo

The fifth edition of the USSA National U16 Camp will be held Sunday July 27 to Sunday August 3, 2014 Jackson Hole, WY. The National U16 Camp brings together the top U16 Boys and Girls from across the Country for a week of intensive training and ski sport education as one the first steps in the USSA National Development Pipeline. The National Nordic Foundation has designated the U16 Camp as one of its Pillar Projects and has been instrumental in helping the U16 Camp project grow into one of our country’s key development initiatives.

The camp rotates in location throughout the country and this year’s camp will be based at the Teton Science School Campus, located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The community of Jackson offers unlimited opportunities for ski training in a beautiful mountain setting. US Ski Team Head Development Coach, Bryan Fish will lead the camp along with a selection of top regional coaches. Selection for the camp is based on results from US Junior Championships, held in Stowe, Vermont using a system of best 2 of the 3 individual results.

In addition to the automatic selections of the top twenty boys and top twenty girls based on JN results, each USSA division is afforded two discretionary picks of one boy and one girl in addition to however many may have qualified via the JN selection procedure. It is the responsibility of each USSA Division to select these discretionary divisional skiers and forward those selections onto the camp director, Rick Kapala of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, rick@svsef.org. Please include discretionary names with phone and email contact. We also ask all Divisional Leaders to alerting all athletes who have been selected, that they have qualified for this opportunity.

Attendees are required to organize their own flights or ground transport into Jackson, WY to arrive on Sunday, July 27 and to depart on the following Sunday, August 3rd. Note that it is possible to fly directly into Jackson, WY connecting through an assortment of major airline hubs. All skiers arriving by air into Jackson will be picked up by U16 staff and transported to the lodging. All Lodging, meals and all associated camp costs are included in the camp fee of $660.00. Skiers who have been selected through the JN selection procedure may immediately confirm their attendance by emailing U16 Camp Director Rick Kapala at rick@svsef.org. Participants will receive a comprehensive registration packet upon confirmation. The Final date for confirmation is Friday June 6, 2014. We would also appreciate an email declining participation as well if a skier may not attend.


USSA/NNF 2014 U16 Camp Selections based on best 2 of 3 from US Junior Nationals

U16 Boys

1. WILLIAMS, Zach 14 IM Sun Valley SEF

2. WONDERS, Hunter 15 AK APU

3. HAMILTON, Forrest 15 NE Mansfield Nordic

4. LUKENS, Leo 15 PN Mt Bachelor SEF

5. WOLTER, Peter 15 IM Sun Valley SEF

6. BOSWELL, Russell 14 NE Stratton Mountain School

7. KOENIG, Benjamin 15 AK NSCF-Fairbanks-FXC

8. STREINZ, Daniel 15 NE Maine Winter Sports Center

9. POLITO, Max 15 IM Jackson Hole SSC

10. KNOPP, Tracen 15 AK Alaska Nordic Racing

11. HOEFLER, Matthew 15 AK Alaska Winter Stars

12. SAPP, Everett 14 MA New York SEF

13. BALCAO, Will 15 AK Alaska Winter Stars

14. GLUECK, Adam 14 NE Ford Sayre


16. VORSE, River 15 IM Sun Valley SEF

17. HANSON, Anders 15 NE Craftsbury Nordic

18. KNOPP, Dawson 15 AK Alaska Nordic Racing

19. BATES, Calvin 15 NE Dublin School

20. ROS, Carter 15 IM Sun Valley SEF

U16 Girls

1. SWIRBUL, Hailey RM Aspen Valley Ski

2. HALVORSEN, Hannah 15 FW Sugar Bowl Academy

3. KAUTZER, Amanda 15 MW Loppet Nordic Racing

4. LANGE, Leah 15 IM Park City Nordic Ski Club

5. LEVINS, Chloe 15 NE Mountain Top Nordic

6. BRAMS, Leah 15 NE Cambridge Sports Union

7. YOUKEY, Lydia 14 PN Leavenworth Winter Sport

8. O `CONNELL, Kathleen 15 RM Steamboat Springs WSC

9. BENTON, Claire 15 MW Loppet Nordic Racing

10. RUDD, Hannah 15 MW Loppet Nordic Racing

11. RIZIO, Mackenzie 15 NE Stratton Mountain School

12. LARKINS, Lizzie 15 FW Auburn Ski Club

13. FLOYD, Jordan 15 RM Steamboat Springs WSC

14. MOENING, Erin 14 MW Endurance United

15. JOHNSON, Anna 14 MW Mesabi East

16. DUNNAGAN, Brooke 14 IM Bogus Basin Nordic Team

17. DARNELL, Anna 15 AK APU

18. GIBSON, Anna 14 IM Jackson Hole SSC

19. MORGAN, Madison 14 IM Park City Nordic Ski Club

20. FAKE, Anna 15 RM Durango Nordic Ski Club

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