|IF YOU CAN’T BE GOOD, BE DIFFERENT. The Obertsdorf Boys Choir- (L-R) Reed Zeuhlke, Jeff Hastings, John Broman, and Jon Denney at the 1981-82 4-Hills Springer Tournee.|
The 4-Hills Springer Tournee opened yesterday in Obertsdorf GER… and today former USST head coach Greg Windsperger will be celebrating a birthday. Since 1981 these two events have usually fallen on the same day and always been knotted together for me- a happy pairing.
John Broman, Jon Denney, Reed Zuehlke and I represented the USA in the 81-82 Tournee. We were joined by a journalist, Paul Robbins, who was newly hired by the US Ski Team to make sure the world heard our story. But he’s another story and as it turned out there wasn’t much good news on that trip so Paul spent most of his time trying to goad us out of pouting or teaching us proper use of the words “good” (not an adverb) and “well” (an adverb that could be used to modify the verb “jump,” something we were not doing very good… or well, either).
It was our first international competition of the season so we were not yet fully aware of the ass kicking we’d be receiving though it was pretty clear that the Obertsdorf organizers were, as reflected in our hotel assignment (a dingy place outside the village) and the company they booked with us (the Hungarians- who frankly seemed thrilled to be invited to the party at all, an attitude we would have done well to adopt). Where is Gabor Geller today, I wonder? He was wonderful. Anyway- driven by an urgent need to express ourselves as something more than the dullards our hosts saw in us, it was decided that we would surprise Greg – NAY! We would surprise the entire international ski jumping community! – by singing happy birthday over the PA before the first round.
There was still a lot of innocence in that age and the Tournee far less developed. The Obertsdorf venue now seats tens of thousands in permanent grandstands, but in 1981 the outrun was a hay field defined by posts and ropes. Which is to say that with the help of Paul Robbins and his press credential we had no problem gaining access to the judges tower and finding a live microphone to blast out a hearty version of the Happy Birthday song which ironically, even in Europe, is sung in English. It was, as it turned out, both the emotional and athletic high point of the trip.
I would return to the Tournee the following two years and, with different combinations of teammates, sing Happy Birthday over the PA. What had felt incredibly mischievous and irreverent in 1981 was pretty much written into the program by 1983. We were heartily welcomed into the judges stand and ushered to a waiting microphone. Was there an oompah band playing back up? Seems entirely possible. And by 1983-84, thanks to the direction of Greg and fellow coaches Erling Rimeslaaten, Timo Denisson, and Rex Bell, and the hard work of athletes, our singing was no longer the greatest talent we brought to Obertsdorf. Eight members of that US team had scored world cup points (top 15) the season before. Which (together with our singing?) had earned us far better accommodations in the village.
So- to Greg- happy birthday! In my heart I still sing to you from that judges’ stand every December 30th. And to Erling, Rex, Timo, along with my father Paul Hastings and other great coaches Bud Fisher, Don Cutter, Bruce Jennings, Dave Bradley, Bob Stone, Bill and Peter Robes, George Merrill, Elmer Fulton, Bernie Dion and I’m sure many others whose names escape me but whose impact has not- thank you.
|SUNNIER DAYS- (L-R) Windsperger, Broman, Hastings|
|BEFORE SIRI. Windsperger (deft at building a team but not map reading) asking for directions in god-knows-where (Eastern?) Europe.|
|BEARER OF THE PRESS CREDENTIAL- Journalist and member of the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, Paul Robbins in what looks like Innsbruck 1984.|
Paul Robbins was inducted into the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2009- To see his USSSHoF bio, CLICK HERE