Former Head US Nordic Combined Coach 70’s/80’s
It was a long time ago in a land far to the North. The location was Mo-i-Rana, Norway. It is so long ago that I have forgotten exact dates, but I believe it might have been March 19, 1978. March 19 because it was my birthday and 1978 because this story began at the World Championships in Lahti which, by the way, will be the site of the 2017 Nordic World Championships.
The Nordic Combined team was having a pretty good year in both the cross country portion and jumping events (except at the World Championships). The team had gained a lot of respect and we had spent lots of time training with other teams. Nordic Combined is a pretty small community worldwide and back then, as I expect there still is, there was a good sense of camaraderie between international athletes and coaches.
As the games were winding up, the Finnish head coach invited me over for a sauna and celebration. Saunas with the Finns are never to be taken lightly, but when mixed with their love of spirits and competitive nature, they can be quite the experience. This was not a letdown, and by the time I finally bailed into the ice hole for the third time I was pretty cooked (in more ways than one). Shortly thereafter we were sitting on bearskin robes before a brightly burning fire and sharing stories. Sometime during this period I vaguely remember being asked if I would consider helping the Finnish Nordic Combined team on the Northern Norway spring trip. The head coach needed to stay home and their main assistant was expecting a new child. What can one say? It was settled.
We worked our way north: Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Finally to Mo-i-Rana (Mo) tucked just under the Arctic Circle. The competitions were all great fun and fiercely fought. Kerry Lynch, Pat Ahern, Mike Devecka, Gary Crawford and the juniors were all skiing well as were the Finns. At Trondheim, between the Finns and Americans, we accounted for six of the top 10 (3 American and 3 Finns).
Mo was the end of the line. We had traveled by rail north from Trondheim. I recall it snowed the entire way. Big wet flakes of spring snow. The jump in Mo looked out over the sea and was a spectacular setting. Kerry Lynch was leading after the jumping with Pat, Gary and Mike Devecka all in the hunt. Sunday morning; Temperature was right at freezing and those big flakes of wet snow just kept falling. Back then, Nordic Combined was still a classic cross country event and this even was not being run in the pursuit format. The best skiers were seeded at the end. All of the Americans had jumped well, but unfortunately some had to start in the early XC waves based on the seeding.
Race morning, every team member, both Finn and American, were testing wax. I had tried everything and sent the early skiers out on my two pairs of no-wax skis. The hairies(base roughed up with sandpaper) were OK, but a bit slick, everything else was walking on stilts. With the top flight just getting ready to start one of the Finns handed me a tube of Rex Silver klister with a big smile and Thumbs up. “Hyvä!, Niin sitä pitää! (Good – That’s the Stuff!)”. While skeptical I started applying it to skis as fast as I could. All hands were helping and each of the last two Finns and American barely made it to the start line. WOW! Those four skiers finished 1-4 many minutes ahead of the rest of the pack. I don’t remember the final results, but here were two Finns and two Americans at the top of the XC and overall results. There was another sauna and celebration that night – this time by the skiers while I slept in.
Steve is now a professor at the University of Montana. To see his UMT bio, CLICK HERE
To see Steve’s TEDx Talk on the importance of motion to learning CLICK HERE
|IT HURTS HERE. Steve Gaskill gives a TEDx Talk on the connection between motion and learning.|