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The normal competition at on Westby’s big hill had just ended, and now came the round that I had really been looking forward to. Longest standing. I barely jumped far enough to qualify for the longest standing competition, but I wasn’t concerned. Now I could jump from any gate I wanted. It was time to jump from the infamous “masters gate”.
As I hiked up the tower, I got the fluttery feeling in my stomach as I visualized myself popping out over the knoll with more height than I knew what to do with. Masters gate was what seemed like a mile above the gate we had competed on. I had the perfect level of nervous excitement. I was ready to go.
At the top of the hill my friends held my skis to the 2×4’s that straddled either side of the track so I could precariously walk out onto my skis and strap in. There was no sidestep to put your skis on before getting onto the bar. I hoped none of my friends holding my skis in place would sneeze, sending me tumbling down the jump and falling off the takeoff. After quickly checking my gear and adjusting my goggles, I jumped up on the bar, straightened my skis, and looked down the jump. Masters gate must have been 10 feet above the highest of the normal bar starts. It was so high up, you had to ski over lumps of ice for about 8 feet before getting to the cut track that year. I looked down below the jump and saw the bonfires and spectators all around the outrun. The car horns and the cheering were settling down from the last jump. It was time to go ludicrous speed.
I flew down the in-run. The beginning was a blur, but time slowed down when I hit the compression. The takeoff came and I launched. Then came the feeling that can’t be forgotten. Shooting out over the knoll, and seeing the landing hill open up below me. Climbing higher and higher into the air. There were no words in my head. Only a feeling of wonder, excitement, joy, and a touch of panic. This was without a doubt the highest I had ever been on skis in my life.
I flew down the hill, loving the flight, and the further down the hill I went, the harder I bailed. And with a smack of my skis on the snow, I hit 116 meters, my new PR!
Walking around the outrun was suddenly much more difficult than usual. My entire body was numb and tingling from the adrenaline. I looked back up at the jump, longing to get that flight again. Then I looked over at my friend Nate Mattoon and said “let’s go take another jump”.
You’re only allowed one jump in longest standing, but we decided to just give other names to the starter at the top of the hill. We went with our coaches’ names, hoping people would get a kick out of hearing them announced as the jumpers coming down the hill. I was Brian Nelson, and Nate was Scott Smith. We weren’t vying for the win, our friend Ben Loomis had already taken an inhumanly long jump that could only be landed with his signature shin grabbing landing. This was just another chance for us to fly.
And once again, I was rocketed out over the knoll, and time slowed as I reached peak height. I floated for a while and landed another jump past K. Those nights were magical for me. Setting new PR’s under the lights in front of a big crowd of spectators, goofing around with my friends, and freezing my toes and fingers off. I think that’s what ski jumping is all about.
Thank you to everyone involved in the sport for giving us these opportunities.
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