This weekend Tara Geraghty-Moats, a 25-year-old from West Fairlee, Vt., finally stood on the international podium spot she’s been working toward her whole life. And she did so not just once, but twice.
On August 19, Geraghty-Moats won the inaugural FIS Ladies Nordic Combined Summer Grand Prix in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, which drew 11 competitors from six countries.
It was a historic event in that it marked the first time women have been able to compete at the international level in Nordic Combined. The event, which challenges skiers to both ski jumping and Nordic skiing (on roller skis) has previously only been open to a men’s field.
Geraghty-Moats, who had finished second the previous day, won the Ladies Individual Gundersen to take the overall title. The Gundersen competition starts with a jump from a normal or large hill. Later on the same day, the cross-country race (three laps on a 1.5K loop) took place on roller skis. The winner from the ski jump started at 00:00:00 and all other athletes start with time disadvantages according to their jumping score. The first to cross the finish line would be the winner. Geraghty-Moats started in fourth after the jump but dominated the roller-ski to lead the pack.
After the race, Geraghty-Moats said, “I had never jumped here before and I’ve obviously never competed in Nordic Combined before. The second day I felt like everything came together, I felt much more on top of things on the ski jump and was rewarded with a little bit easier of a ski so I didn’t have to fight so hard to be on the podium.”
Growing up in West Fairlee, Geraghty-Moats trained as a ski jumper, cross-country racer and a biathlete. “If I had been a boy I would have been considered a Nordic Combined prodigy, due to my strength in both jumping and Nordic skiing, but because I was a girl I had to choose between the two,” she wrote on her fundraising page. Three years ago, VT Ski + Ride covered Geraghty-Moats story in the feature, “She Skis, She Jumps, She Shoots.”
“It was a dream come true to finally be able to compete in women’s Nordic Combined on an international level. I’m using this weekend to learn the level I have to be at to have success in combined,” Geraghty-Moats said.
Despite a series of setbacks, Geraghty-Moats has persevered. One of the world’s top junior cross-country ski racers and biathletes, she suffered a knee injury while ski jumping which sidelined her for several years. Last year, she barely missed the Olympic ski jumping team. Then her elbow blew out a year ago. But perhaps the most crushing blow came last winter.
The sport Geraghty-Moats seemed born into, the sport that has an Olympic event for men, Nordic Combined was finally accepted for women by the FIS for a Continental Cup series in 2018/19, a World Cup in 2019/20 and was being considered for an Olympic spot for women (there’s already a Men’s Nordic Combined) in 2022.
However, this past July the Olympic Committee deemed there was not a level of competition or the variety of countries they deemed necessary to include the sport. So it remains the only Olympic winter sport that is not open to women.
That has not stopped Geraghty-Moats from training and rehabbing her elbow. On July 12, she was able to do her first handstand in 10 months. She headed to the Mayo Clinic to work out with the USA Nordic Team to undergo a series of physical tests and training plans. The team went through force-play testing, field testing, upper body ergonomics, V02 Max tests, trunk stability and overall flexibility. Additionally, athletes and coaches learned about what was state-of-the-art in sports psychology and sports nutrition.
The training seems to have worked. On the final day, Geraghty-Moats showed her cross-country speed after a good jump and ended her race one minute and 14 seconds ahead of Russia’s Stefaniya Nadymova. Germany’s Jenny Nowak finished third again, +1:29.2 after the American.
Geraghty-Moats now stands tied in the overall standings with Nadymova. And she’s only just getting started.