|In the beginning- Gene and son AJ in February 1999.|
STORY No. 47
Fox River Grove, IL
Norge Ski Club
Most of the stories thus far have originated from former ski jumping athletes relating fond memories of on-the-hill experiences with their fellow “brothers” of the sport, composed of a small fraternity of which I will never be a part. The recollections and perspectives developed from their involvement in the sport has not only uniquely impacted their lives, but is also pertinent to me as a non-jumper looking in from a different point of view.
Growing up I was always enamored and awed with this, my favorite winter Olympic sport, which was only reinforced when I watched the infamous introduction of ABC’s Wide World of Sports “Agony of Defeat”. As I lived south of Philadelphia on the East Coast, there was no practical chance that I would have the opportunity to participate in my favorite extreme sport except as a television viewer.
My introduction to the sport, its people and culture, arrived a couple of decades later quite by accident. My wife, daughter and I moved to Fox River Grove in the early 90’s. At the time, I was quite involved with snowmobiling as a motor sport which consumed most of my weekends during the winter.
Only several years later after the birth of my son, did we discover Norge Ski Club during a wonderfully sunny and pleasant fall day. As my 3 year old sat by my side, watching athletes fly off this huge jump and landing on plastic far down the hill, he exclaimed with a big smile and the enthusiasm that only a little child could produce – that he wanted to do that! A flashback of that poor skier on TV, spectacularly crashing off the end of the in-run popped into my head as I replied, quite less enthusiastically, “Sure son, sure”.
Upon hearing several loud “booms” as A.J. hit the floor jumping off our stairs in the house over those next months, Lori and I knew that with his determination to jump, his chances of breaking a leg at the ski jump were probably less than that of doing it upon a bad landing on our hardwood floor. We took A.J. over in late December, and were quickly and warmly welcomed at Norge Ski Club. He learned to ski for the first time that very evening.
Although A.J. was committed and truly loved this new activity, it was not until I made a phone call home on the road back from a snowmobiling trip in Canada. One of the first things I heard during that conversation was, “Your son placed 2nd on the 5 meter hill at the Norge tournament…” I wasn’t aware he’d jumped off anything but stairs and certainly hadn’t been told he’d been entered to ski jump! I promised myself at that moment that every effort would be made to attend any ski jumping activity in which he was involved from that that day forward.
Over the next 13 years and counting, we have had the honor of participating in this family oriented sport filled with the most wonderful people one could ever meet. As a junior parent, these and many other wonderful experiences have enriched my family’s lives more than I could have imagined. We are grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the ski jumping community, and know that those participating in the sport, whether athlete, parent or fan, will take away much more than they will have contributed.
So to those who may yet be on the outside looking in… take the leap! You’ll be glad you did!
|AJ cleared for landing in Lake Placid|