Clas Brede Bråthen
CURATOR’S NOTE – Handing the mic back to the Norwegians. Hard to imagine a kinder or more positive perspective and story than Clas’ below. Enjoy.
I can´t remember a time in my life when ski jumping wasn’t the most important part, of course after my family (and yes, I know it’s weird). I grew up feeling sorry for all those who were not able to do this wonderful sport (actually I still do, sometimes).
It all started with my father, Frank Bråthen, who was running our local ski club. He took me with him once I was able to go with him the 1 km, on skis, from our house to the hill. I guess I was 4-5 years old. While he was preparing the hill, coaching the boys and girls, and joking with the other parents there, I was standing in the snow beside the hill and watching the brave “big boys and one girl” with stars in my eyes. I cannot remember a single moment when I was cold or bored, I was just starting to fall in love I guess, with this sport.
I still remember the first time I was allowed to try it; in many ways this was the moment that gave my life direction. It took away my interest for almost everything else for a long time, a bit too long time when it came to school and other quite important things, some might say.
I was always together with my father, and after a couple of years my brother joined us in the hills. We always prepared the hills before jumping. I was early coached that if I wanted to jump, I had to work, and if we did that work well the jumping was safer and more fun. I believe this was important lessons that I have taken into my life in more ways than one.
So, to the story with US ski jumpers. This started with my father taking me to an international competition in Gjerpenkollen, Drammen. The hill is still operational, it’s a modern and a good training facility for local jumpers and even international top stars. This summer Kobayashi and Takanashi were training there. My father was so proud of getting the chance to be a volunteer for that “big event” and I was proud that my father had an important role there (he was working as a stamper).
This was a special night for me, so I was prepared with my autograph book and enough clothes. Since I was quite a small guy in my younger years, and my father was working in the hill, I was standing alone beside the outrun watching the stars of my sport with big eyes. I was quite a shy young boy back then, so I was just standing there with my book not daring to ask anyone of the jumpers for their autograph.
Then one of the US ski jumpers, who probably found this young boy a bit strange, came up to me and pointed at the book, and I guess he asked me if he could write his name (but I didn’t understand a word English at that time), so I gave him my book and a pencil. Then he also arranged it so that more athletes came up to me and wrote their name in my book. Because of this I even got the autograph of Johan Sætre, who was like a god to me since he was the best Norwegian ski jumper. In many ways this is one of the strongest memories I have from my younger years. I cannot really explain why, maybe some of you can help me?
Sadly, this autograph book burned up together with a lot of pictures and other memories from my younger years when my childhood home burned down in 2007. But I´m quite sure that the first name in that book was Jim Denney, and this was my first meeting with a foreign ski jumper, and ever since that I followed US ski jumpers with more interest than others.
When I grew up, I got to be a quite ok ski jumper and I was able to compete internationally from 1984 to 1996. I have so many good memories from time spent with US athletes, I guess it also helped a bit that Erling Rimeslåtten was coaching there for some years.
The memories from when I first met my good friend Kris Severson in Tarvisio in 1986 is still very clear to me, and I get l the same good feeling when we meet from time to time.
The memories from the party we had in my hometown Mjøndalen, at Ole Bremseths apartment (think it was November 87), with Mike Holland, Mark Konopacke, Zane Palmer and the rest of the team is also just great.
In later years I have also been fortunate enough to get to know Rex (Bell), who first contacted me when he came to a FIS meeting in Zurich (some 10 years ago). It didn’t take much time before I understood that we shared the same passion, and in many ways had the same background in ski jumping.
When Rex asked me for advice on how to turn the USA into a better ski jumping nation, I really felt that I had to do all that I could to come up with some good proposals. First because I felt it was an honor to be seen as someone who could help, and of course because of all the good memories with US athletes, but probably most of all because what Jim Denney did.
I believe in a great future for US Ski Jumping. The way I see it there is a lot of young talented athletes (maybe even more than in Norway right now), there is passion, there is infrastructure (hills) and maybe we will have the chance of chasing the great goal of victory on home soil in Salt Lake City Olympics in 2034.
Just think about how it will be to stand together and see the Stars and Stripes at the highest level on the prize giving ceremony (hopefully with Norwegian flags on both sides) and hear “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It would probably be one of the greatest moments in ski jumping ever, because I believe that this moment will change our sport for the better, forever.