Minneapolis Ski Club/Western State College
Former USST Nordic program director in the early ’70’s
Seems the sun is still shining and there’s more hay to be had. This time in response to Chris Gilbertson’s insight yesterday into the Nordic combined team’s McDonald’s tradition. Reading about it spurred a memory from Jim Balfanz, former US Ski Team Nordic program director. He wrote this morning:
The McDonald’s stories brought back memories of when our Nordic Team juniors went into the USSR, being the first US team to do so since the Communist took control. In our ongoing effort to keep our “older juniors” dedicated to keep working hard and make the transition to the A teams, we had begun the process of having them compete in what was then called the European Junior Championships.
After getting an invitation (that’s another interesting memory as to how that all came about, which is fodder for a future article), to compete in the USSR, we made the long journey (caused by the Soviets requiring us to travel to Moscow from either Austria or Switzerland instead of going directly to Leningrad (Now St. Petersburg). That situation also raises some memories as to the overall travel situation, and how it “magically” happened.
Our team stayed at the major hotel in Leningrad at the time, and were bused, along with the Canadians, Swiss and French teams members, to the competition site about an hour or so away.
At no time during that stay in Leningrad did our young athletes actually get enough to eat. I know they all lost weight during that trip.
Upon finally leaving the USSR, via Swiss Air, (when the plane executed wheels up, the entire plane burst into cheers which confused some Soviets who were on board), we headed to Stockholm to travel to Falun. Once in Sweden we boarded the bus and began to go through Stockholm. The driver made a turn and as he did so, above a building was a large McDonald’s sign. Marty Hall, our Cross Country coach, went up and pointed to the sign and conveyed the message to take us to it.
Everyone on the bus enjoyed a GREAT McDonald’s meal.
Back then they had a slogan – “Take your date to a world famous restaurant.”
Thanks to Marty Hall we got to experience one.