Skip to content
Home News 2023 Lake Placid FISU World University Games: Team USA captures first gold at home

2023 Lake Placid FISU World University Games: Team USA captures first gold at home

Winter Games 18 January 2023

“Watching that big screen in the stadium and seeing him getting that gap on the last uphill – I was a little giddy with excitement.”

Evan Nichols (picture below) was waiting at the finish line with open arms, ready to embrace his teammate Niklas Malacinski (main picture above), who was pulling an incredible all-out performance on the last uphill of the final lap of the Nordic Combined Team Sprint event held Tuesday evening at Mt. Van Hoevenberg.

He secured not only the top spot on the podium for the American duo but also the first gold medal for Team USA at the 2023 Lake Placid FISU World University Games. It was also the US’ first title at the winter edition of FISU Games in eight years.

The Japanese pair of Takuya Nakazawa and Sakutaro Kobayashi (left picture) was in the lead after the jump portion of the event in the morning and ultimately finished second after an incredibly close fight with the Americans on the cross country course in the evening.

Winning a distant bronze were Ukraine’s Dmytro Mazurchuk and Vitalii Hrebeniuk.

The Japanese held a 25-second lead over the US heading into the cross country race, with Nichols going first for Team USA.

“We’ve been jumping well but Kobayashi has been absolutely dominating the ski jumping, so we knew he’d be our biggest opponent today,” Nichols said.

Each athlete was going out four times on the 1.5-kilometer sprint course, tagging his teammate after every lap. Nichols and Malacinski were pushing hard from the beginning, tightening the gap with Japan constantly.

“We knew that it would be our strong suit to go out there and kill it in the cross country race,” Malacinski said. “Our game plan was to catch up and try to drop them as fast as possible, but that’s obviously really hard in a sprint race like this, where you go all out every lap.”

It wasn’t until the fourth exchange that Team USA finally closed the gap. While they tried to escape from the rivals, the Japanese stayed right on their tail until the last exchange – where it came down to Nikolas Malacinski versus Sakutaro Kobayashi.

“I was really just praying I had that extra little kick at the end,” Malacinski said with a smile. “I left it all out there and gave it a 110 percent on that final uphill.”

With gold in their hands, both 19-year-old athletes are putting their victory in a bigger perspective.

“I think Nordic Combined is a much lesser-known sport in the US so we need to make our name somehow. It’s a big sport in a lot of countries in Europe and we’d love to make it a big sport in the US as well,” Nichols said. “We have a strong young team coming up. Hopefully our next medals will be at the Olympics.”

The final Nordic Combined event at this year’s FISU Games will be the Mixed Team Event coming up on Thursday.

Written by Annika Saunus, FISU Young Reporter

We warmly thank FISU Official Partner Qiaodan Ltd. which provides remarkable uniforms to FISU Family and International Technical Officials since 2015. Qiaodan is a valuable partner for FISU as it continued to provide its support during the postponement of events due to the global pandemic, and recently extended the relationship with FISU up to and including 2025.