Ben Loomis as a 10 year old jumping the Silvermine hill in Eau Claire, WI… and eliciting comments for the crowd on the sanity of his parents. Photo credit to Shane Opatz.
KARYL (& PAUL) LOOMIS
Though there are many, our favorite ski jumping memory is from 2009, when our younger son Ben (age 10) first competed at the local Eau Claire Silver Mine Tournament. Our older son Adam had begun jumping a few years before then, but we still felt like “newbies” to the sport, and were nervous to watch our sons jump an Olympic size jump! Therefore, I volunteered to drive the skiers up to the top of the hill- that way I could avoid watching the jumping. On his first jump, I decided to be brave and actually got out of the truck to watch. A large crowd had gathered at the bottom of the hill on a beautiful balmy evening, and I ended up in the midst of a large group of spectators, barely able to make out the tiny speck at the top of the jump. My knees were shaking so hard I could barely stand, but I was thrilled to hear Ben’s name announced and the roar of the crowd. I had no idea how far he jumped, but was simply relieved that he landed safely. As I turned to return to my “shuttle” duty, a tall man in front of me suddenly shouted: “ What kind of effing Mom would let their little boy do that?” Unsure whether to respond, I slunk back to my truck quickly. Yet in hindsight, I have often wished I had proudly shouted, “That would be me!”
As ski jumping parents, this is most common question we hear from friends, relatives, even strangers- (albeit without the expletives): “How can you let your child do THAT?” Often, we think to ourselves, “well there’s no logical explanation for it”, but the reality is, it isn’t always our choice as parents. Our boys love Nordic Combined and we really wouldn’t be good parents if we didn’t support them to follow their passion and dreams, whether it’s music, theater, athletics, etc. After getting caught off guard on that night, my response now is, “If they can throw themselves headfirst off a ski jump at 60 mph, they won’t feel life has many limits.”
Another common question we hear is “Will they make the Olympic Team?” Our standard response is cliché but sincere: “It’s not about their results, but the journey. Whether they achieve that level of accomplishment or not, if they quit today, it has still been quite the JOURNEY!” Leaving home at 15 and 17 years of age entails considerable sacrifice and commitment, but the confidence, courage, and character they’ve gained simply can’t be achieved in any school or job. Problem-solving, resiliency, patience, and an awareness of other cultures and perspectives are just a few of the skills and rewards that ski jumping has brought to them.
For that we are so grateful.
Story Project 2016