Flight and Plight of the US Olympic Ski Jumpers
A beautiful ski jumper in flight.
One of the images often publicized or portrayed as representative of the Winter Olympic games every 4 years is that of a Nordic jumper in flight.
It’s not easy being a part of the U.S. Olympic Ski Jumping team.
Anders Johnson (Kempt man of the Hour above) is the son of longtime family friend ….. and my brother’s best friend, Alan Johnson. Alan grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He came with his family in the 1960’s-70’s to the Poconos every weekend and holiday vacation to ski. We were ski families together. I was best friends with all 3 of Alan’s sisters. Alan’s father was Ski Patrol, our father was Ski School-Instructor. My brother and I, along with Alan, became involved in the Ski Patrol and moved on to ski instructors as well. Growing up at a ski area is a fabulous life changing experience. The competitive streak comes out even in the most docile individual. We would build jumps… often taking the entire day to haul hay bales up the mountain and hand pack the snow over them until it was just right and the jump would be perfect! Then the fun and the competitions would begin. My brother and Alan are still competing… 😉 about pretty much everything!
Alan went on to have a career in skiing and coaching with the US Ski team. His expertise has led him to be the head coach of ski jumping, nordic combined and program director over the years for some divisions of the US Ski Team.
His children, Alissa and Anders, fell in love with ski jumping at an early age. Anders was 3 years old when he first followed his sister off the jump. I remember taking Alan’s little brother Eric (Anders uncle) up the ski lift when he was just 3 years old. Since we only had a T-Bar, Eric had to be with a taller person to ride up. That boy was fearless and went down the slope so fast we could hardly catch him! He’d be down at the lift line patiently waiting for someone to take him back up again!
Alissa is an excellent talented jumper. She has done very very well in World competition! For some ridiculous reason, women are NOT permitted to compete in ski jumping in the Olympics! I simply can’t understand any of that when women are allowed to do crazy snowboard half pipe events and race downhill at 75 to 80 miles per hour. And the luge… come on– how dangerous is that??? Regardless… they lost their fight for the 2010 Vancouver games. Sad but true. Now to make matters worse, the Men’s ski jumping has lost it’s affiliation with the US Ski Team!
In many Nordic countries like Norway, Sweden and Finland… Ski Jumping is the national sport. It is given much support and recognition like we value baseball and football. The jumpers are glorified and honored.
Here in the U.S. — Ski Jumping is not given the recognition it should. Here- we give this attention to halfpipe snowboarders and those who do the best tricks, the highest crazy jump, the fastest downhill racer or mogel maneuver etc…
We have forgotten the athletes who can fly like a bird, the athletes who train for years to be able to soar and glide their way in beautiful form to completes the longest jump. …..
For American Ski Jumpers…… they are now on their own struggling to make ends meet and working so very hard to qualify and compete that they don’t even get to attend the opening ceremonies. Here is a story of how they take it on themselves with competing spirit and rise above in the face of adversity:
Project X (from the Anders Johnson Bio page)
Unlike the U.S. Alpine, cross-country, freestyle, nordic combined and snowboard teams, the American ski jumpers do not have any affiliation with the U.S. Ski Team. In 2008, the national body decided to terminate its men’s ski jumping program and drop funding for the sport. That left ski jumping athletes with their families and any willing backers to organize an initiative on their own. The independent program, called Project X, is headed by Johnson’s father, Alan. It has no formal corporate sponsorship and instead relies on a patchwork of private donations. The program’s athletes, including all three of the U.S. representatives in Vancouver, help raise money by going door-to-door and reaching out to local businesses. They raised enough money to hire a full-time coach, German Jochen Danneberg, normal hill silver medalist at the 1976 Innsbruck Games and two-time winner of the prestigious Four Hills tournament, but have little surplus to cover travel expenses.
Here are some Anders Johnson’s accomplishments besides making Olympic history as the youngest Olympic jumper EVER in 2006 Turino at the age of 16!
- 1st Place 2009 National Championships
- 1st, 3rd Place 2008 National Championships
- 15th Place COC Brotterode Germany 2008
- 20th, 23rd Place COC Villach Austria 2008
- 25th Place COC Oberstdorf Germany 2008
- 27th Place COC Velenje SLovenia 2008
- 29th Place COC Rovaniemi Finland 2007
- 2x 3rd, 2x 5th FIS Cups
- 48th Place Grand Prix Klingenthal Germany
Let us remember to support ALL the athletes of the games. Those events which get a lot of press and endorsements help to encourage not only the individual athlete but that sport itself!
Support ALL our American Ski Jumpers this year at the
2010 Winter Olympics
2010 U.S. OLYMPIC SKI JUMPING TEAM
(name, hometown, age as of opening ceremonies, birthdate, past Olympics)
Nick Alexander, Lebanon, NH, 21, 8/24/88
Peter Frenette, Lake Placid, NY, 17, 2/24/92
Anders Johnson, Park City, UT, 20, 4/3/89, 2006