All 4 U.S. men advance in normal hill qualifiers

Ski jumping got underway Thursday at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre with the qualifying round of the men’s individual normal hill competition and Team USA’s Kevin Bickner was up for the challenge.

Bickner, one of four Olympic rookies for the U.S. men ski jumpers, finished 25th to advance to the next round with a distance of 98 meters and a total score of 114.0 points. A jumper is judged on a combination of distance and style.

As for the other U.S. men, all three — Michael Glasder, William Rhoads and Casey Larson — advanced, as well. In the field of 57, Glasder placed 40th, with Rhoads and Larson not far behind in 45th and 46th, respectively.

But it was Germany that made the biggest statement of the day. Andreas Wellinger took the top spot with a distance of 103.0 meters and a high score of 133.5. Wellinger was flanked by fellow countryment Richard Freitag, Markus Eisenbichler and Karl Geiger as Germany took four of the top seven spots.

However, sandwiched between the Germans were a few big names. Poland’s Kamil Stoch, the defending Olympic medalist was not far behind Wellinger to grab the second spot with a total of 131.7, and a meter further jump than Wellinger.

Austria’s Stefon Kraft, a two-time world championship gold medal winner and world record holder, placed fifth.

Forty spots in Saturday’s first round were up for grabs, while the top 10 jumpers from this season’s World Cup standings automatically advanced and had the option to not participate in the qualifying round.

In the qualifying round, each skier was given two jumps; one practice and one scored jump.

Saturday’s first round (7:35 a.m. ET) will be immediately followed by the final round (8:30 a.m. ET). Stream both rounds live on NBCOlympics.com.