Editor’s note- Changing it up a bit today. Larry and Molly Stone tell the same poignant story from different perspectives- that of coach/father and athlete/daughter.
Editor’s note (2)- If you want to watch a great documentary on the history of women’s ski jumping and especially their fight for Olympic recognition, go to http://www.readytoflyfilm.com/ and order your own copy of Ready to Fly. Both Larry and Molly are in the film. Great story, well told.
|Larry and Molly Stone- father/daughter and coach/skier- in Salisbury, CT in 1998.
STORY No. 77
Salisbury (CT), Team East; coached SWSA , NYSEF, USST M & W (3X USSA Dom. Coach of the Year)
What goes around…
I’ve enjoyed reading these stories and hope it brings us a common sense of what ski jumping has meant to so many of us over the years. As I have been a witness to so many stories, I struggle to pick one. However, I remit one that struck close to home for me and made me appreciate viscerally what so many parents who have entrusted their young jumpers to me have gone through.
In the late 90’s, my Lake Placid program was the nucleus of US women’s ski jumping with a healthy group including Lindsey Van, Liz Szotyori, Marie Pierre Morin, Karla Keck and my daughter Molly. We were also joined by Veronica Myrha and Karla when they were in town and Janne Rand a few years later. In 1998 we all traveled to St. Moritz for the Junior World Championships and in ’99 to Ramsau for the World Championships for unofficial exhibition events. At the same time, there was a tour of events in the central European of towns of Baiersbron, Schonwald, Rastbuchl, and Saalfeld. This series of events became a yearly event with participants from many countries. Through these experiences, I became convinced that these girls deserved a chance to see what they could do in this sport.
This, however, is a prelude to my story. I was very glad that in the course of my work with both men and women, I actually had the opportunity to work with my daughter, Molly, on a regular basis. I had the pleasure of traveling with her to meets all over the US as well as to the newly emerging women’s circuit in Europe. In the course of our travels the women began skiing bigger hills like Westby and Steamboat. Lindsey Van had been skiing large hills since I took her to Stams in ’96, at the age of 11, and Karla Keck had jumped several large hills as well. Given this, the Lake Placid K-120 was a different animal. More impressive and intimidating because of its unique architecture and history, it loomed large as a hill that many of the women wanted to ski. In preparation for a competition in ‘99 both the Lake Placid hills were ready to go and I thought the time was right for a few of the women to get their chance at the K-120. Molly was skiing well and I knew she could technically handle it. I also knew she had a career goal of skiing the hill, so on a perfect afternoon when the hill was in beautiful shape I decided it was time.
I had been involved as a coach in many skiers’ first jumps on big hills. As long as I had worked with and knew that the athlete, regardless of gender, was ready both technically and mentally, I would support it. The interaction between a coach and an athlete is a complex and subtle bond and in many cases it was important that the athlete could draw on the strength and confidence of their coach to help them. I had never had any problem with this and I felt I was sensitive to the parental fears that would be expressed on these kinds of occasions. As I sent Molly and her teammates up for their first jump on our big hill, I, of course, put on my game face and told them to be confident and just tend to business. There would be no problem. I had been around the sport for a long time and we all have seen some amazing things happen on ski jumping hills, not all of them pretty. I had experienced parents grabbing my arm and holding on to me for dear life as their child jumped their first bigger hill. I never had any qualms about it because I truly would not send someone up in hill size unless they were ready. Little was I prepared, however, for the feelings that coursed up in me as I saw Molly getting ready up on that tower and sliding out on the bar of our K-120. It was with a weird steely calmness combined with a sense of something very primal way in the back of my mind as I stood up in that K-120 crow’s nest coaches’ stand and looked down that hill checking the air while my little girl was putting her skis in the track. She was still my little Molly, but the hill was ready, the air was perfect, and it was time. I dropped my hand. She was in the track!
|The pioneers of women’s ski jumping competing in Europe in ’99- left to right is Karla Keck, Veronica Myrha (STORY No. 69), Marie-Pierre Morin, Liz (Szotyori) Mezzeti, Lindsey Van, Molly Stone, Larry Stone.
STORY No. 78
NYSEF, Park City, US Women’s Team
My side of the story…
The sport of ski jumping has always loomed large in my life, but my ski jumping career only spanned 8 years ranging from age 10 to age 18. My father, Larry Stone, is deeply committed to the sport and has been since before I came into his life. The sport has always been a daily part of our family’s life as my father has dedicated himself to coaching the sport. By the time I hit age 10, I think my father had given up hope that I would take an interest in the ski jumping, but, for better or worse, one day I decided to give it a try. My first jump was off of the K18 in Lake Placid. Soon after, our entire family relocated to Park City and I decided to become a real ski jumper. Lucky for me and for many other jumpers, my father was my coach.
My dad and I had many adventures together, travelling to ski jumps in North America together as well as beginning to tackle the issue of women’s ski jumping all over Europe. I’m thankful that I was able to have such unique experiences with him. I am also thankful that my father has always fought for us ladies in the sport. He has truly helped women’s ski jumping advance to the place it is today.
I have many amazing memories from my time as a ski jumper, but the first day I jumped the K120 in Lake Placid was one of the best and most terrifying days of my life. As many people who know me can attest, I was never the most courageous, daring ski jumper on the hill. Jumping that hill was something I dreamed of and dreaded at the same time. Growing up in the area, I had seen the hill a thousand times before I actually sat on the bar and put my skis in the tracks. Having my father as my coach assured me of one thing: I would never be allowed to ski that hill until I was ready. When the day finally came, I rode up that elevator with my skis in my hand watching the trees disappear below me. I was terrified, but I knew I would not be in that elevator unless it was really the time because my dad was down below ready to flag me. If he could give me the go ahead, then I knew I could do it. As I waited in line up top, I watched the other skiers make their way onto the bar and head down the hill. I put my skis on, got on that bar, dad’s hand went down, and I heard the familiar “hyup.” I stood up and did what I knew how to do. It may not have been the longest or prettiest jump that hill has ever seen, but I will never forget it. Now at age 31, whenever I drive into Lake Placid or up to the ski jumps, I have that memory tucked away inside and am so thankful for all the jumps I was able to take with my father as my coach.
|Father/coach Larry Stone gives daughter Molly a lift.