December is a month of extremes. Extreme darkness, extreme weather, extreme holidays… everything is taken to an edge. For sure it is a lovely in many ways- the snowflakes, the holiday lights, the music, and the excitement of having the ski season right around the corner!- but, frankly, it’s mostly a month to survive… to get to the other side of. So it’s nice to have some stepping stones to help march your way through. That’s what USANS’s Story Project is about: bringing a little light, and community, and pre-season excitement to your every December morning. 31 stories in 31 days! Let the magic fittingly begin with Andrew Urlaub’s beautiful remembrance of Patrick Gasienica.
Flying Eagles Ski Club
Eau Claire, WI
In Memory of Patrick Gasienica
Patrick was a beloved teammate, friend, and brother of mine. He was someone I spent a lot of time with during my teenage and young adult life. I learned a lot from him, and I hope he was able to learn some things from me as well. During this time, we spent a lot of time together on and off the ski jump. We even lived together for a few years in Slovenia! One of my favorite memories of Patty was the happiness he displayed whenever we would go to one of his favorite places.
Most ski jumpers who compete on the World Cup or Continental Cup circuits have a favorite venue. Some of the characteristics that make a venue desirable to visit are; a liking to the ski jump, a fun town or city to be in, nice accommodations, or the atmosphere of the fans at the venue. Patty’s favorite venue had a different characteristic of why he loved it so much. He had family members who lived in Zakopane, Poland. Even though Zakopane checks the boxes on many of the other characteristics of why most ski jumpers love traveling to Zakopane, (it has one of the craziest atmospheres and is a fun town to visit) Patty was excited to see his family. Patty was very proud to jump in front of his grandparents and other relatives. Ski jumping is HUGE in Poland and is a sport that the country loves and follows intently. No matter how his season was going, what time of year it was, or what mood he was in, the excitement turned on when Zakopane was coming up on the calendar.
The travel to Zakopane was an eight-hour drive from Slovenia. The drive is extremely boring with highway driving through Austria and winding roads through small towns in Slovakia. When we hit the border of Poland, there is only 20-30 minutes left to Zakopane. At this time, the entire van usually gets excited to get out of the cramped van. On one of our trips to Zakopane, either Decker Dean or Patty was playing music via Bluetooth in the van. One of Patty’s favorite songs was Miłość w Zakopane (click here to listen). It is an upbeat song with Polish lyrics and a catchy refrain. I recommend looking it up and taking a listen. As soon as this song came on, the van erupts and Patty is in the back row dancing and singing like he is at the disco. I think we listened to that song on repeat until we arrived at our hotel. Even though I’ve heard this song too many times, it still makes me smile and think about Patty’s love for Zakopane.
Ski jumping is a unique sport with unique people involved. It is a sport that brings people of all walks of life together, united under the love of flying. I have met many people from around the world throughout my years as a ski jumper. However, the number of teammates I have had remains a small number. We have grown extremely close and have shared many ups and downs together. To lose one of them is extremely difficult. However, these small happy memories I have of each will remain with me.
Rest in peace Patty, Love you.