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Winter Park Nordic Team (we miss you)
Flying is more than a sport and more than a job; flying is pure passion and desire, which fill a lifetime.
Captain Grant, USAFA Sky Diving and C17
Wasn’t it just yesterday? I still see it so clearly: my twelve-year-old son Grant, sitting on the start bar of the K90 at Steamboat Springs, alone on the hill, focused on the tracks, waiting for my clear signal from the judge’s stand. It was Saturday afternoon after the 1995 Winter Carnival junior competition was complete. The Winter Park Jumping Team had gone home. Grant wanted to stay so he could ski the K90 for the first time.
Grant had just become comfortable skiing the K60. The K90 was his Goliath to conquer. With such a tenacious attitude, I didn’t want to disappoint him, but the hill was not open for training. The day before, the Ski Patrol was training for their night of flames performance and in the process traversed the in-run of the K90 leaving a large horizontal rut about ¾ of the way down the in-run. I asked Todd Wilson if Grant could ski the K90 if I fixed the rut. Todd reluctantly agreed, so we spent an hour raking and packing it out. Grant and I both knew this might be his only chance to ski the K90 and he wanted to meet this challenge and conquer it.
Before his slow ride up the lift by himself, my instructions to him were simple: (1) don’t put on your skis until you have committed yourself to go; (2) when you get on the start bar there is no turning back; and, (3) when I drop my hand push off the bar…no hesitation. We both knew this was this one of the greatest challenges of his young life and he would be all by himself at the start. The mental fortitude to fly was something he would have to find on his own at the top. I told him one last thing, “Remember son, when you put on your helmet you become invincible and when you put on your goggles you are indestructible!” A turn of phrase I used as encouragement for him since he was little.
When I saw Grant was ready I dropped my hand, and off he went exactly as instructed. He pushed off the bar and settled in to his very solid in-run position. As I watched him descend, time stopped and my vision tunneled as he hit the “fixed rut” and his left ski came out of the track about to take out his right ski. I had a slow-motion vision of Wide World of Sports’ agony of defeat. For Grant, it was no big deal, just a bump in the road to success. While maintaining his in-run position, he calmly lifted his left ski and put it back in the track with enough time to make an impressive jump of about 45 meters. My body-systems resuscitated. I was able to take a deep breath and feel the pride and relief as I saw him ski out the flight of a lifetime.
I share this story not because Grant became a noteworthy ski jumper but because his attitude, resilience and strength anchored him to face larger opportunities and challenges. As his father, I know Grant’s grit and courage came from facing Goliaths and his time as a ski jumper helped to shape this determination.
Grant jumped competitively for one more year before his interest turned to ball sports. Out of High School he was recruited to play football for the Air Force Academy where he graduated in 2007. He then went on to flight school for two years where he became Captain of a Globemaster III, the billion-dollar C17 cargo jet. He flew missions all over the world, many of which he cannot speak about. He then returned to the Academy to fly the jump-plane for the Wings of Blue sky diving team where he also mentored Cadets on the fortitude to fly. Along the way he logged over 100 sky dives. Like the WWII Aviator, Grant agrees that, “Flying is pure passion and desire, which fill a lifetime.”
Grant is now a Major in the Air Force and a father of four little wannabe flyers. I am obviously a proud Dad and now Gramps. I can’t emphasize enough the significance the sport of ski jumping can have on a young person. Sports develop a person in powerful ways. A sport like ski jumping is truly unique in the way it refines one’s ability to overcome any obstacle in life.
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