Skier Ripp set to compete at Worlds
Cloquet native makes great leap forward
February 21, 2020
After graduating from high school last May, Cloquet's Aidan Ripp hit "Pause" on academics to pursue his dream of becoming a top competitor in the world of Nordic combined. He gave himself a year, spending part of the summer and early fall jumping and skiing on plastic in Europe and places such as Utah and Colorado. Since the snow arrived, he's been across the States practicing and competing in his chosen sport.
It paid off.
Earlier this month, USA Nordic named Ripp as a member of the 2020 Junior World Championship Team. Ripp was one of four male Nordic combined athletes named to the team, which includes a total of 17 male and female athletes.
Ripp said they leave Monday for Austria, where they will practice for a week before the Junior World Ski Championships in Oberwiesenthal, Germany held Feb. 28-March 8.
According to the international ski federation website, the competition in Germany "will feature the best young athletes" in cross country skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined. The U.S. team will compete in a total of nine medal events.
Ripp has come a long way since he was a light-as-air youngster flying off the ski jumps at Cloquet's Pine Valley, one of only four places in the state with functioning ski jumps. But there are lots of young kids still jumping and skiing at Pine Valley who will be rooting for a hometown hero.
Pat Marciniak wasn't surprised to see Ripp go this far. In fact, Marciniak said he wouldn't be surprised to see Ripp compete at the Olympics someday.
The longtime Cloquet Ski Club coach (who co-coaches with Aidan's father, Ken) Marciniak tells a story about the first time kindergartner Aidan wiped out on the 10-meter jump.
"It was the first day he put jumping skis on for the 10," Marciniak said. "He was doing OK, then he wiped out. He was so angry that he fell, he just kept going and going: take a jump, grab the tow rope, jump again, until he felt good about his jumping. I just knew then, 'Wow, this kid will go as far as he wants to,' to have that determination at that age."
Although Ripp said he had distant dreams of competing in the big leagues as a child, he didn't get serious about the idea until he got a little older and started traveling to different jumping clubs around the Midwest, starting up the road in Coleraine, then on to jumps and competitions in the Twin Cities and beyond.
In the beginning, Ripp said he didn't even realize there were other clubs.
It was just him and about 10 other kids jumping and skiing at Pine Valley, including his siblings Nolan and Charlotte.
"He stuck with it, even though it was more difficult for him to keep his practice up on the jumps," said his mom, Caroline, referring to the lack of bigger jumps nearby. "He found ways to travel to Minneapolis, Chicago, Michigan and Eau Claire to practice (jumping). And anyone who's ever watched him race cross country running or skiing knows he is explosive. Just when you think he has given it all, he hammers out another gear."
Although cross country skiing has been his strong suit until now, Ripp has shown marked improvement in his jumping this year, something he attributes to getting to do more jumps, more frequently.
The Pine Knot News sat down with Ripp last Thursday - before he left for a competition in Vermont where he placed third - to talk about his grand adventure.
QHow did you find out you made the junior world team?
AI just got a text from someone. It's pretty informal. Then they technically named the official team on the USA Nordic website. But I knew before that.
QGoing off those big jumps seems really scary and dangerous. Are you still scared when you are up at the top, ready to go?
AIt's not as scary as it looks. It's also not as dangerous. I've been pretty lucky not having a lot of injuries, I only broke my leg once when I was a little kid and I was just downhill skiing. I know a lot of people that had serious accidents at Spirit Mountain and other stuff like that but it's really not as much as you'd think here (at the Pine Valley jumps).
QBut you said you got a concussion in the fall?
AYeah, I actually got a concussion on the Europe trip, but it wasn't from jumping, I hit my head on a window. (He chuckles at the thought of getting a concussion in the same way a "normal" person would, versus tumbling down a ski slope.) But I kind of toasted the rest of my September, so that kind of sucked.
QWhat are you hoping will happen at the world competition in Germany for you, personally?
AThe really big breaking point for me is 30th place to make sure that I qualify for the national team. This is kind of the last opportunity to do that this season except for the American Nationals. But that would be tougher, because I would have to win. By making 30th or better in Germany, I can pretty much spend the next year skiing again. I would have a spot on the team and more of a plan.
QWhat would you tell a kid who might want to try ski jumping?
AIt's definitely really fun, especially in this club. And it's a small enough sport that if you just really stick with it, you can really just make the next bridge. It's not that far out of reach for anyone to go and do that.
QHere's the question we ask everyone: If you could hang out with any three living people in the world, who would it be, and why?
AJürgen Klopp, the Liverpool football club manager, because he seems like a super interesting and funny person.
Jim Carrey, because I grew up watching his comedies and he is one of my favorite comedians.
Charlie Parr, the Duluth folk artist. I would pick him because he seems to have a super down-to-earth perspective and seems like he would point out stuff that a lot of us would miss.
Watch Worlds online
Fans who aren’t watching Cloquet athlete Aidan Ripp at the Nordic Junior World Ski Championships in Germany should be able to watch the competition at http://www.nnf.ski/t, according according to the Oberwiesenthal2020 Facebook page. There may be a fee to livestream coverage of the events.