|TAKING IT TO NORWAY. US ski jumpers (L-R) Mike Holland, Mark Konopacke, Ricky Mewborn, and Nils Stolzlechner finished 5th in the team event at the 1985 World Championships in Seefeld ,Austria. Ahead of Norway!|
Kitzbuhel, AUT/Sun Valley, ID
We Who Laughed Last
We all have memories of the “loudmouth” reporters that praise their nation’s athletes and rub in any and all wins when they get a chance. What our team accomplished in 1985, even 31 years after it happened, still makes me proud.
During the 1985 World Championships we were staying at the Holiday Inn in Innsbruck. The entire Norwegian press stayed at our hotel and we had this breakfast room with a really nice buffet spread. Pretty much every morning we would run into this one particular reporter from Norway’s largest newspaper, VG. For some reason he targeted Mark Konopacke and asked “how it went for the Americans” with his singing Norwegian accent. After the Norwegian reporter asked the question he always was quick to add that the day had gone very, very well for Norway. On most days someone from that cold but cool nation won a medal. This all went on for about 10 days. On the final day of the event, at this time one of the best World Championships in Norway’s history, the reporters were confident of another medal at the team ski jumping event. At breakfast the VG reporter once again tracked us down, asked us how it went for us and told us that Norway had won two more medals the day before. He then took the time to wish us good luck at the team event and that he would later celebrate the next medal sure to be won by the Norwegians in this event.
Remembering the competition it was a warm and windy day at Berg Isel. The gusty winds came from behind and the inrun was slushy and slow. Ron Richards from Canada had a bad fall in the second round, tumbling down the landing hill and coming to rest about two feet away from the first aid station. He ended up needing knee surgery but other than that he was as always in great spirits. Rick Mewborn, Mark Konopacke, Mike Holland and I all had decent jumps and at the very end the score board showed us in 5th position. Finland with Matti Nykaenen won, Austria came in second and the DDR (East Germany) took third place. A close forth was Czechoslovakia and then in 5th place Team USA. Japan rounded off the top 6. At the end of the event the organizers told Greg Windsperger, our head coach, that we needed to be present at the medal ceremonies that where held in Seefeld, about 45 minutes from our hotel. We needed to change and were in a hurry to get to the awards. All of us were in the hotel’s elevator when the doors opened and that Norwegian VG reporter came in. Mark Konopacke had a big grin on his face, and asked the reporter how his day went. The reporter just stared at Mark, who then told him that we placed 5th in the team event and then Mark dropped the classic line “ It was a good day today for the US, how did Norway end up at the team event” Needless to say we all laughed, well all but the Norwegian reporter.
The coaching staff with Greg Windsperger, Erling Rimeslaatten and Rex Bell had a team that was within striking distance of winning a medal at the team event, and with a little luck we would have been there. I am thankful to have been part of this team and for all the time we spend together completing along with so many unforgettable moments we shared together.