Ben Loomis: Eau Claire Olympian representing USA in more ways than one
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Nordic Combined athlete Ben Loomis is having a season to remember. Wednesday morning competing in the Men’s Individual Normal Hill, Ben was the top U.S. finisher and placed 15th overall in Beijing. The Chippewa Valley native is also the top US finisher in the World Cup so far this season.
The Eau Claire Native represents the USA in more ways than one at the Winter Games.
Ben Loomis has been skiing for almost as long as he could walk. Starting at age two, then following in his brother’s foot steps and learning ski jumping at five.
“I was looking up to the Silver Mine ski jump,” Ben said. “That was always the goal as a young kid.”
“It’s not the kind of sport that a parent can push their child down a ski jump. I mean they have to really be committed and want to do it themselves,” said Paul Loomis, Ben’s father.
Flying Eagle jumpers start at the Mt. Washington training complex. First on small jumps that gradually get bigger as the skill improves.
“Each step is overcome with excitement, so you’re not as fearful as much as you are excited,” explained Ben on the learning process.
Loomis made it the Silver Mine jump, the same height Olympic athletes compete on, at the age of ten.
“To be able to attend that tournament and be able to compete in front of the crowd, the home crowd, was really a pleasure,” Ben reflected.
His mom, Karyl Loomis, remembers the night of his first Silver Mine Invitational well.
“It was Friday night and there was a big peak crowd around the bonfire and they made a big deal out of Ben coming and he jumped it really well and this guy just yelled out really loud, ‘What kind of mother would let her child do that?,’” Karyl said.
While she didn’t respond in the moment, her husband Paul says she now knows how she would’ve.
“A parent that wants their children to be challenged and fall down and learn life lessons,” Paul mentioned.
In the years that followed, Loomis quickly excelled through the sport. He learned along the way he wanted to jump and ski--settling on the Nordic Combined.
Wanting better training, he approached his parents with the idea of moving to Park City, Utah at age 15.
“I had real mixed feelings because it’s a huge sacrifice,” Paul said. “You’re giving up high school dances and social events and all your friends.”
Wanting to support their son’s goals, Karyl and Paul came up with a plan.
“I actually went with him,” Karyl explained. " He went to three years of high school out there and we rented a little apartment and I stayed there for those three years. He went to school all summer and then compete in the winter.”
The move quickly paid off. Loomis won a silver medal at the 2016 Youth Olympics.
“I kind of got a taste of what it would be like [to go to the Olympics] and how the process worked,” Ben said.
Also seeing plenty of achievements at the Junior World Championships, despite a setback heading into 2018.
“The summer prior, I broke my collar bone and was out for a couple of months and my biggest goal for the winter was the World Junior Championships,” Ben mentioned.
He walked away with a bronze, also going to his first Olympic Games in Korea.
“I think there were like three people in the stands for the first Olympic practice, but we wanted to see that first jump,” Karyl said. She and Paul traveled to Pyeongchang for the games.
Loomis went on to have a top 40 individual finish.
After the 2018 games, he had another surprise in store for his parents-- joining the army.
“Another thing that he just drove himself. We had no idea. He just came home and said I’m joining the army. He’s very driven. He had to go through bootcamp,” said Paul and Karyl. “His job is to promote the army.”
Ben is in the Utah National Guard as well as active duty in the World Class Athlete Program.
“I’m not putting on my uniform every day like most people in the army, but my mission right now is to be the best athlete I can be,” Ben explained.
Representing his country as both an athlete and as a service member.
“Something this big, it takes a lot of sacrifice,” Paul said.
That sacrifice and dedication continues every day for Loomis.
“Training kicks off in April or early May. It’s six times a week, two times a day all the way through the end of the year, so it’s 20+ hours of training every week, basically the whole year,” said Ben. “It’s really an honor to have so many people supporting me both in the Eau Claire community and the Wisconsin community, it’s been huge. I want to be that role model for them and know that this is an option and something you can achieve if you set your mind to it.”
Proving to even the smallest of Flying Eagles, the Olympics are within reach.
“He’s humble and I think just being a good role model--to me that’s so much more important than any results he might get,” Paul said of his son.
Ben will next compete Feb. 15 in the large hill event.
As for his personal goals in Beijing, he says the results don’t matter as long as he is happy with his performance.
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