Iola Winter Sports Club
Like all of us in ski jumping we have countless memories from our times in the sport that we love so much.
One of mine that I thought I would share, is in my opinion, the last great rivalry in U.S. ski jumping. John Balfanz and Gene Kotlarek back in the late 50’s and into the 60’s were two amazing jumpers that won National Championships, set many National distance records, and were many time Olympians. All you had to say was “Gene” or “Bullet” and everyone knew who you were talking about. Maybe the Duluth-Minneapolis aspect added to it, but they were incredible athletes and competitors.
As young skiers we all looked up to them with awe and respect. It was a joy to watch them fly. Distinctive styles like everyone in the pre-“V” days. As someone who spent the last 45 years flying airplanes professionally I can very much appreciate the “V” style, but it has become so technical that everyone looks almost identical. Back in the day of Gene, Bullet. Willy, Butch, or Ansten, you could tell who the jumper was from a mile away when they came over the knoll. But, like everything, innovation and changes move things forward. This will never change, and just when you think that something has no where else to go, another breakthrough comes along. I have to wonder what that will be in ski jumping.
It is hard to imagine that after so many battles on the ski jumps Gene and Bullet are gone, but I am sure now they are together talking about a special jump that each had somewhere, and are great friends that share that special bond that all of us in ski jumping have.
The photo clipping above and article below was in the Skiing News magazine sometime back in the early 60’s.
I regret that I never got to meet either of these guys or watch them jump. To have Americans finish 2 and 4 at Holmenkollen has to be a highwater mark of all time for USA ski jumping. Time has a way of eroding things… I really appreciate Tom’s bringing Bullet and Gene back into our consiousness. A few more things that I found if you’re interested:
February 15, 1960 Sports Illustrated article featuring Gene Kotlarek and highlighting his “new” forward lean technique
Graphic of the new form and descriptions of the elements of the new form
Link to story that Gene Kolarek wrote for the Story Project in 2012 (before his passing in 2017)
CONSIDER A DONATION IN (HIGHLY APPRECIATED) STOCK
USANS is set-up to accept donations of public stocks. As a donor you get full credit tax write off for the value of the stock and avoid paying any taxes on the capital gain associated with that stock. Win Win! INSTRUCTIONS: Wire stock to LPL Financial, DTC 0075; Account: USA Nordic no. 3532-8923; contact: Paul Tan. If you have questions, call or email Paul Tan at (435)962-4548 or email@example.com