ALMOST 200 DONORS CONTRIBUTED $96,490 THAT WAS MATCHED FOR A TOTAL OF $192,980. THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROSITY!
Today in St Paul MN everyone from U8’s to masters (who will be competing for their national title!) will take to the air. In Garmisch GER, Kevin Bickner, Mike Glasder, and Will Rhoads, products of programs and events like today’s in St Paul, will represent the US in the second stop of the Four Hills Tournee. At both of these venues, and at others across the US, more life lessons will be learned, more friendships initiated or deepened, more personal demons conquered.More stories written.
In sports as small and volunteer-dependent as ours it is not such a long road from St Paul to Garmisch. Or Schonach, or Lahti, or Oslo. There are very few degrees of separation which begets connections across age, ability, and geography. This intimacy and the challenges inherent in both ski jumping and Nordic combined force us to rely heavily on each other. This is both the burden and the gift.
Mostly the gift.
Happy New Year.
THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING BIG- Van Loan, Spillane, Jed Hinkley and Billy Demong on the podium after winning gold in the team event at the 1999 World Junior Championships
CARL VAN LOAN & JOHNNY SPILLANE
Andover Outing Club & Steamboat Springs Winter Sport Club
firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
An Historic Feat for Four Friends
The spring of 1998 represented a changing of the guard in United States Nordic Combined. Dave Jarrett had retired, Tim Tetrault entered the last season of his career, and the National Team all of the sudden included four new members under the age of 20. The 90’s had seen huge leaps forward for the US behind the success of individuals like Ryan Heckman, Todd Lodwick, and those before them. These successes had paved the way for a promising 19-year-old named Billy Demong to burst onto the scene in Nagano. In the US, spirits were high, but Johnny Spillane, Carl Van Loan, and Jed Hinkley were not yet a blip on the radar of traditional powerhouses like Norway or Germany. However, these countries did not know that this new guard included four friends, best friends, who had grown up training together. And those four friends had set one collective goal that spring: to win a gold medal in the team event at the 1999 Junior World Championships.
The audacity of this goal had its foundations in the belief that the US Nordic Combined Team was going to be the fastest junior team in the world, bar none, and one of the main reasons for this was that the changing of the guard had also included coach Bard Elden. Bard had been hired to coach these up and coming juniors, and he was, and still is, without a doubt the most dominant cross country skier who had ever competed on the Nordic combined world cup. With this unparalleled knowledge and experience, Bill, Johnny, Carl, and Jed steadily improved throughout the summer and fall, and were skiing as fast as they ever had as the season approached.
When Junior World Championships finally began, the team was looking for redemption from a near last place result in the team event the previous year. Would it be possible to rise from the bottom of the pack to be the best junior team in the world? The individual event did little to suggest that it could be accomplished with mediocre performances at best, but with a renewed focus and determination, the boys leaned on each other and continued to believe.
The day of the team event arrived, and they jumped to a solid 7th place, well within striking distance of the leaders at under back. Their confidence continued to grow and the excitement was palpable as they headed to the cross country venue. The wax was perfect, the athlete order strategically selected, and as Carl Van Loan led off the first leg, he began to hunt the other teams down and eat into the lead. After posting the fastest time of all skiers that day and pulling back much of what was lost in the jumping, Carl tagged Johnny, who moved the US a couple more places up and continued to chip into the advantage. Before anyone knew it, Johnny had put them in a podium position, but that was not their goal. Their goal was a gold medal, and after Jed’s third leg, they were a measly 17 seconds down, and in second place. Billy was skiing the final leg, and amazingly he was able to chase down Andy Hartman, who was ranked in the top 15 in the world, before the last hill. As Bill came around the second to last turn and into site of the stadium, he was in the lead, but Andy was right on his heels. Would he be able to hold him off? They both sank out of sight over the last rise before circling back into the stadium. Everyone watching held their breath as they waited for them to reappear. Who would be leading, and could Bill hold Andy off in a sprint? Then, as though in slow motion, Bill appeared in first place, surging toward the finish line, and Andy was at least 5-10 seconds behind him. As Bill crossed the line, the team mobbed him, and the celebration began!
They had done it! They had posted the fastest team time of the day and in doing so had won the first team medal in any World Championship event in US Nordic skiing history! It was the result of hard work, friendship, and a belief that it was possible. It was also the result of great coaches, a fantastic staff, and the never-ending love and support of parents, family, and friends. This was exemplified by the fact that all of their parents had traveled the long distance to witness this event, and celebrate the great accomplishment. That day America took another step forward in what would culminate in the medals won by Bill and Johnny at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, and it is a piece of the story that is US Nordic combined skiing. The story continues today, and there are many more great accomplishments and milestones to come.
ONE OF THE KEYS TO VICTORY was the experience and knowledge that came with Bard Elden, of Norway, shown above in a 2005 USST head-shot..
MAKING THE GRADE. Dusty Johnstone, front left, and the 1956 Dartmouth Ski Team.
Dartmouth College Ski Team
My intro to Nordic sport came in 1951, when as a high school junior I fell in love with
XC skiing. Coach made it clear that jumping and NC went together as a team
challenge, and soon I was struggling to be a 4-event skier. After a season of 4-event skiing
as a high school senior where the largest jumps were 20 meters, I went off to Dartmouth hell-bent to make the Dartmouth ski team.
Realizing my success depended in large part on jumping and NC, and aware that Dartmouth’s
40M jump terrified me, I made weekly climbs to the top of the jump. I often brought lunch, and
ate looking down on the tops of white pines, with the trestle swaying in the breeze, wondering
if I would be the first to die when snow fell.
Snow finally fell.
The climb up was robotic and left no memories. The trip down relived memories long forgotten.
It was the longest 4 seconds in my life, I’m sure because I thought it was over. I had vivid flash-
backs of the major crimes of my youth, things I had forced from memory years earlier. They included hitting my older brother (Age 8) with a 2×4 with a nail through the end, and I watched
him run to mother, trailing blood and plank. As I reached the take-off, I was telling mother I did
not push my playmate (Age 10) into the frog pond. I did. I’m sure I thought I was talking to St
Peter and a full confession would get me through the gate.
In any case, life continued. I bounced off the knoll, survived the landing hill, and came to a stop
shaking so hard I just had to lean forward to climb the hill.
That was the start of a splendid career of jumping mediocrity. It was splendid in three ways:
1. Few experiences in life package so much challenge, thrill, fear, maturation, and joy.
2. Splendid are the bonds of friendship formed on jump hills.
3. Splendid it is to see your sons and grandsons far exceed your shaky start.
WHAT STARTED 60 YEARS AGO- Dusty Johnstone watches the third generation take flight at the Proctor Academy jumps.
NOTE FROM WALTER MALQUIST
FRONT OF THE PACK- Bryan Fletcher competing in the 2015 World Championships in Falun Sweden.
Steamboat Springs, CO
The year was 2003, and I had just been selected to compete in my first World Junior Championships taking place in Sollefteå, Sweden. I had heard the stories of European travel for years. I mean to be honest, when I found out I could go to Europe for the sport of Nordic combined, that’s pretty much all I wanted to do. The allure of attending competitions in a far-off land seemed so appealing to a young kid. Life on the road skiing with minimal parental supervision, I mean come on, what’s not to like about that? Finally, that dream was coming true, tickets were booked, bags were packed, and horror stories of travel gone bad were passed down to me from the older generation. Nonetheless, I was ready and eager to conquer the journey. My travel instructions were simple, take the 3 flights to get to Sweden, get my bags off the belt, find the guy with my name on the sign, have him drive me to the hotel, where I would call DJ and meet the rest of the team. How hard could this be?!
The long-awaited day finally came. As I was about to board my first international flight, I remembered all my peers telling me how cramped and crowded the plane would be. They said it would be the longest 10 hours of my life. Their advice “As soon as the door to the plane closes jump on any open row available and throw your stuff all over so no one sits there!”
I was travelling solo and boarded the plane. It was huge, I had never set foot on a plane that big in my life, there was like 5 seats in the middle of the plane and 2 on each side. Immediately I began to fear how crowded this would become, yet I was bewildered by the lack of people in the waiting area. I assured myself that the masses would come but they never did. The boarding door closed and that’s when it dawned on me, I had 5 seats to all to myself and there was not a person for 10 rows in front of me or in back of me. That 10 hours went by so fast! I was like a kid in candy store, I slept, I read my book, I listened to my CD player, I ate candy and slept some more.
I arrived and just as expected I met the guy with my name on the sign, which was horribly misspelled! After loading my bags up in the car we were on our way. He told me it’s just about a 2-hour drive. I thought to myself that I probably should stay vigilant, I don’t know this guy, I am in a foreign country, I should make sure he is taking me the right way, to the right place! I mean he could be kidnapping me for all I know. Then it hits me, the jetlag, and as I try with all my might to fight it, I can’t and I doze off. I woke up a short time later and we are pulling up the drive of a massive old complex. It’s the hotel I am staying at but for some reason it looks more like a hospital. Concerned, I ask the driver if this is where I am staying, he replies in broken English, “USA, yes.” I unload my bags, go to the front desk, grab a room key, and as I am walking down the halls I can’t help but notice all the pictures of operating rooms, patients, doctors and nurses. I arrive at my room and open the door to find a vaulted ceiling, no TV and a hospital bed, you know the one where the head and feet lower with the railings on the side. Curious I go back to look at the pictures, as I do, I realize that not only was this place a hospital in the early 1900’s but it was also repurposed as a mental institution a short time later. I admit I was now a bit freaked out, I mean I had been there almost 3 hours, none of my teammates had shown up, there was not another soul in the building, besides the receptionist, and the calling card with a billion minutes I had purchased would not put me through to DJ or the USA to let my family know I was alive. At this point, I decided to retreat to my room and hide. Minutes seemed like hours as I waited for the rest of the crew to show.
Just when I was about to hit the ground running a van pulled up with a bunch of skinny dudes with dyed hair and US Ski Team jackets. Immediately I recognized them as the wild crew with which I belonged. My fear subsided and I went to greet them, they could obviously see I had been shaking in my boots. They gave me a rash of crap all in good fun, then the true experience began. The comps were nothing special results-wise for me, but the experience certainly was. I remember watching feverously as our squad took third place with some impressive skiing. They were competing against and beating the best skiers I had ever seen and I quickly realized that our guys were among the best. Inspired, I left that trip determined to join the ranks of the US Nordic Combined team. The rest of my career started on the travel home from that trip, I had a lot of work to do before I could reach the level of the U.S. Team. But that trip solidified the dream in my mind no matter how much work it might take.
The travel home was not the lap of luxury the trip over had been. This plane was packed to the gills, and I now understood the horrors of international travel from the middle seat in what might as well have been row 1000 and 1. But that didn’t matter as I was perfectly happy reliving the memories of my first international competitions!
WAVING THE FLAG for the USA as a member of the 2014 Olympic team that competed in Sochi, Russia.
AND NOW A FATHER- Daughter Ellery Ardene Fletcher jioned Bryan and wife, Nikki, on Aug. 29, 2016.
CURATOR’S NOTE- For a great recent article on Bryan (by Faster Skier) CLICK HERE
THE BEGINNING OF A LONG SEASON. Tom at home recuperating after skiing down the planks of the Lake Placid 30m trestle.
Lake Placid Ski Club
Now Lebanon Outing Club & Andover Outing Club
There Was “No Agony of Defeat” for Me-December 15, 1965
Growing up ski jumping with the Lake Placid Junior Ski Jumpers, I was fortunate to have access to excellent lighted 15 meter and 30 meter ski jumps right in the center of the village as well as the 40 meter and 70 meter at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex. On any given training night there would be 40-50 junior jumpers being encouraged and coached by two of my favorite and positive coaches John Viscome and Paul “Bud” Colby; Mr. Viscome & Mr. Colby to me at the time. After my parents, these two men were most responsible for opening many doors of opportunity & teaching life lessons that impacted the rest of my life including lifelong friendships with fellow ski jumpers, college, employment, sportsmanship and the drive to fight through times when you thought you might have to taste the agony of defeat!
On December 15, 1965 when I was 13 years old, on a cold, icy, windy night, we were training on the 30 meter jump behind the Lake Placid High School and Olympic Arena. There was not much snow on the trestle/tower and the in-run was glare ice, with no track and only about a half meter wide. I had several jumps in these tough conditions that night and on my last jump of that season I kicked out of the start and all of a sudden skied out of the track and was skiing on boards trying to get back into the narrow icy in run. Unfortunately, I did not make it and fell opposite the take off and caught my ski tips on a stair hand rail post and broke my left tibia and fibula, topped off with a concussion. I will always remember Mr. Viscome telling me in the emergency room that in effect I gave it a good try that night and even though my jumping was over for that year I could travel with the team to places like Brattleboro, Salisbury, Bear Mt., and Beacon, NY. Many of you will remember Lake Placid would travel with 40 plus jumpers in school buses, all uniformed in our red sweaters, red coats and hats. The encouragement I received gave me the drive to stay with ski jumping; jumping in college for the University of Vermont and after graduation I coached at St. Lawrence University and in 1977 went back to my roots and coached with the Lake Placid Junior Jumpers and was employed by the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee. Currently I am staying involved with ski jumping, volunteering with New England Ski Jumping Nordic Combined (NESJNC).
That night in Lake Placid could have been a night of defeat whereby I may have quit, but because of great parents, positive & encouraging coaches and ski jumping friends I stayed with the sport that I enjoy & owe so much! To this day I use my ski jumping experiences to help me defeat potential agony!
FULLY RECOVERED. Tom the next year on the same hill. Defeat was not an option.
ONE OF THE GREAT COACHES THAT PAT THANKS: Alan Johnson (R) with Pat in Laconia, NH around 1980.
Summit (CO) High School Ski Team
Member ’84 & ’88 US Olympic Nordic Combined Teams
It must have been January of 1980 by the way Alan Johnson was outfitted in this picture. The Olympic tryouts were over and those of us who were not preparing for the games were touring the New England jumping circuit, Jon Zdechlik and myself included. Steve Gaskill was in Lake Placid and lucky for us Alan Johnson was available to give us guidance from the take off and to points beyond. Coaching is an odd position, so often thankless. If the skier does poorly, the skier is in a bad mood and the coach deals with it, on the flip side if the skier wins everybody is happy. Raking, shoveling, schlepping, did I say schlepping, god bless the coaches, encouraging and sometimes even disciplining. I am not sure if some of the coaches knew what they were getting into. You become a family like it or not.
Some 30 years after competing I look back with reverence to all of the coaches and volunteers who donated so much of their time to us kids on the hill or us racing through the woods. Normally it was freezing cold and as I remember footwear in the sixties and seventies was crap. From the 10 meter in Frisco, Colorado where I took my first jumps to all of the wonderful ski jumps in the US. It is the volunteers and the coaches who are the true backbone of US skiing. We were and are very lucky for all of the coaches. If I may thank a few of the many great coaches from Dick Wellington and Bob Zdechlik, Gary Giberson and Dave Quinn to Steve Gaskill, Alan Johnson, Joe Lamb, Doug Peterson, Mike Devecka and Jeff Hastings. These are the ones whom I spent a lot of time with, and there are countless others who gave encouraging words from the sidelines. It was a true gift to have had the opportunity to meet and then work with so many great people, the same people who helped us set goals that never could been attained without their help and encouragement. I am not the first one to say this but, here’s to the coaches. Hear, hear!
With that being said, I have a short but memorable story. January 1976, I think we were sophomores in high school we had just finished a jump comp at the Winter Park jump. So many great coaches at that complex, and a 5 meter, 15, 35 and a 50 meter jump. What a great place to compete. We are done jumping and we have a cross country race in one and a half hours, about 30 minutes away at Devil’s Thumb Nordic Center. Summit High School’s head Coach Gary Giberson made it very clear that the bus was leaving the parking lot aton the dot. Jon Zdechlik and I were, well, screwing around, not sure what we were up to but it sure took our interest. As we were heading to get on our bus we noticed that there weren’t any busses in the parking lot. We looked at the huge clock on the ski lodge and it said . The sh#*& just hit the fan. Getting out of Winter Park is no easy feat, we tried hitch-hiking for 5 minutes which felt like 5 hours. Then one of us came up with a great idea of running down the rail road tracks to save time to go straight to the town of Winter Park. So, we took off down the tracks. Railroad ties are perfectly spaced for trains, not running. One tie was too close and every two ties was too much. In hindsight this was a mistake. Zeke made it look easy, I followed. Finally we hit a road and were making our way to Winter Park when someone saw two kids way out of the way and pulled over. We fially made it to the cross country race and when we saw Giber we knew we were in trouble. We got our skis and raced, Zeke in classic style won the damn race. I was toasted when I got to the race and finished in the back of the pack. So, every year after, when Giber was laying out the rules for the new kids on the block he would ask us if he want to tell the story or if we wanted to tell the story about not being late. Because nobody was going to make the whole team late. We told the story. And we were never late again.
Jon Zdechlik, August 7, 1960 to July 18, 2015. Rest in peace. He was a great friend, fierce competitor, a joker.
Mostly a joker.
God love him. I wish he’d stayed longer but the time we had we have to cherish.
THE GANG’S ALL HERE- Glenn Joyce, Dennis McGrane, Mike Randall, Pat Ahern, Jon Zdechlik maybe in Laconia, NH in 1980.
Regarding Jon- I try to keep myself on the sidelines but Zeke (as he was known) was a such a kind, mischievous and generous soul that I had to go digging through some old photos. It was 1980 and my first trip to Europe. Jon, Pat Ahern, Dennis McGrane and I (along with Dan Mattoon, Reed Zuehlke and coach Rex Bell among others) skied our way north through Finland that March winding up, sun-starved, on the Arctic Circle in Rovaneimi. Someone looked at a map and determined that if we jumped off our flight home when it connected in Zurich we could take trains all the way to Sicily… the farthest point south for the shortest money. We borrowed the bedding from our last hotel and set out. In many ways it was similar to Pat and Jon’s adventure getting from Winter Park to Devil’s Thumb… only no one picked us up. A classic Zeke adventure.
WELCOME to SICILY. Zeke (R) and Jeff Hastings (L) celebrate their arrival with pizza and beer. Note the handsome bedrolls and matching orange jackets, courtesy of the distance markers in Rovaneimi. The photo doesn’t capture the garbage on the beach, the proximity to the bad elements of the city center, or the deluge that was coming in the clouds banking in the distance.
TRAVELING (& DRESSING) LIKE ROCK STARS. Zeke, Pat Ahern, and Jeff Hastings getting off a bus somewhere between Zurich and Sicily.
WEARING ONLY SNEAKERS & SMILES. Retrieving the frisbee from the cold and haunted waters of the Mediterranean. Dennis McGrane (L) and Zeke (R).
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY- For Corky Colby it started with dad, Jim Colby (R), shown above in a mid-air with Mud O’Rourke in the New York Times in 1931.
Lake Placid Ski Club
Lake Placid, NY
I was first introduced to ski-jumping in the late 1950’s when my uncle Bud Colby, John Viscome & Matt Clark started the program that was to become the Lake Placid Junior Jumpers. One of my first memories of ski-jumping was a weekend trip we took to Telemark, NJ to a small hill event that was run by Art Tokle Sr. This was the first of hundreds of encounters I had with one of the best people anyone has ever met.
This was also one of the first times that I saw that families were a part of this sport somewhere else besides at home. Over the following 50 years it hasn’t changed. Everywhere I have ever traveled there are always family members of competitors putting hills in shape or being officials running meets as well as coaching and transporting skiers to events. I am still friends today with people I met in the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s. When I used to travel to events I always came across the same people again and again.
This sport is generational. My sons became jumpers and Casey was selected for the 1998 Olympic Team and then went on to be coach and the program director for the national team. Art Tokle’s son became a competitor, Nordic official and FIS judge. I first met Earle Farnham when I started coaching in the early 70’s. His son Jon ”Cannonball” became a competitor and coach and runs the events that his father did. The best example I see may be when the past generation of skiers and officials came forward to keep ski jumping & Nordic combined going after USSA abandoned us. The names of the families that have carried this sport goes on too far to list them all here.
I have been able to travel all over the country as a competitor & coach and all around the United States, Canada, Europe, Scandinavia & Japan as an official. It seems to be the same everywhere. Families are the core of the sport.
As with many people ski jumping & Nordic combined has been a life long love affair and I’m sure it will be for a long time for many people.
Corky taking to the air in March 1963.
Corky’s son, Scott, in the mid 80’s.
Son, Casey in 1989 in Rumford, ME. he would be named to the US Olympic team competing in Nagano, Japan. To see Casey’s FIS bio, click here.
|CURATOR’S NOTE- Lars Grini, a Norwegian, plays a prominent role in Ronnie’s story, below. If you do one thing for yourself this Christmas day I would urge that it be watching this brief clip of Lars setting the world record of 150m at Obertsdorf, West Germany in 1967. A mark that would stand for 2 years. As spectacular as it is to watch today’s jumpers flying over 250m it is, in my mind, trumped by watching this athletic, bare-headed dare-devil come in from the rafters and stick an old-style, knee to the ski telemark like it was nothing. Merry Christmas|
RONNIE NEAL SKIING NATIONALS IN DURANGO, CO. Note from Ronnie- The week prior to the tournament it snowed at least a foot and some times more every day. We had 7 or 8 feet of new snow that week and wondered if we’d ever get to ski what with all the boot packing. But it did eventually get sunny and gorgeous.
RONNIE “COWBOY” NEAL
Jackson Hole Ski Club
University of Wyoming
One winter about 1970, I would guess, there was the usual group of ne’er-do-wells gathered in Westby, Wisconsin for a tournament. I remember Jeff Wright, Winnie, “Pavo” (Tim Dennison), Lars Grini and others, as well as myself, ensconced in Doc Bland’s house (as there was a blizzard outside and thus no skiing that day). The most talented raconteurs had depleted their well of stories by early afternoon and with impending boredom signaling its approach someone suggested a poker game.
Of course none of us of had much money to speak of, but we figured with a low stakes game no one would be injured too badly. Thus we played a variety of card games for hours on end and I realized I was up $198.00. A near fortune in those days. Then some pea-brain suggested a round robin high card with the final player going against me. The final guy was Lars Grini and it was all or nothing. (He did have adequate funds to cover the bet). Guess what? He won the whole deal. I think he rewarded us with hot chocolate from Doc Bland’s kitchen.
With that education I learned about gambling and have subsequently since that time have never wagered a nickel at any time or in any way. Thus it becomes apparent that we ski jumpers learn valuable lessons from our peregrinations and experiences on the Nordic trail that don’t necessarily have to do with inrun, take-off, flight position and landing. I very much appreciate the life lessons obtained from ski jumping, the travels and associations developed, and the opportunity to do something within which so few are privileged to participate.
PS- My cows are cold here lately as it has been a balmy 28 below zero in the wilds of Montana, but they’re happy as we feed them lots of hay.
PPS- My ski club was Jackson Hole Ski Club, and Univ. of Wyo. ski team. We had Tim Dennison, Greg Windsperger, Peter Robes, I think Bruce Jennings, Per Sven and me. Denver University, Fort Lewis and Univ. of Colorado were our major opponents. Had some good skiers around the area.
LARS GRINI… knew when to hold ’em.
St Paul Ski Club
T’was The Night Before Winter
T’was the night before winter
And at the ski hill,
Not a creature was stirring
Because of the chill.
The skis were standing by the chalet with care
In hopes that a snowfall
Soon would be there.
When what to my
Wondering eyes should appear,
Several frosty snowflakes
Falling so far and so near.
The cold whistling wind
So blustery and brisk
I knew in a moment
This must be our wish.
And more rapid than Eagles
The skiers all came
They handed out numbers,
They shouted out names.
To the top of the jump
The skiers did climb
With skis in their hands,
Set for a jumping good time.
Down the in-run they came
With a leap before flight
They flew in a “V”
With all of their might
They spoke not a word,
As they soared past “K”
“Telemark” was the landing,
they wanted this day.
At the bottom of the hill
With their boots off their skis
What place would they take?
For their ski jumping memories
but I heard one exclaim
As they flew over the knoll
“Happy Skiing to one,
And safe jumping to all”
DOES THIS SHIRT MAKE MY ABS LOOK TOO BIG? Taylor Fletcher suffers the consequences of thinking youth could triumph over experience.
The Year Long Bet,
It was the winter of 2011-12. I was still relatively new to the team, but I had made great progress is my skiing and was looking forward to pushing the older guys on the team. Through the years, I had always looked up to Billy, Johnny, and my brother Bryan. Being the young guy on the world cup, I wanted to put my foot in the door and show these older guys that I could put them in their place in some way. I wasn’t quite there on the jump hill, but I was racing well in the cross country and Billy had started to take notice. Billy and I were always super competitive, fighting each other during most trainings and challenging each other to all these small bets. It was during the fall that we had decided to do a yearlong bet, on who would be the fastest over the course of the winter. I was fairly confident that I could challenge him enough to win, but Billy is a champion and knows what he is doing very well.
The bet was based on each race during the season and we would take the difference in our times and keep track of who was faster each day. The season started well for me and I was putting good time on Billy in the first half of the competition season. I was thinking I was going to win the bet, but in reality I had actually forgot who I was going up against. I needed to remind myself that I was going up against a World Champion and Olympic Champion. Sure enough as we got toward the end of the season, I was starting to get worn out and Billy was just getting going. He started to ski close to 30 seconds faster than me in each race, and was quickly chipping away at the lead I had worked hard to accumulate. It came down the last couple races of the year and he was on fire. Sadly, I was unable to hold the lead and I think in the end he ended up winning by a small 15 seconds over me.
We had thought of many ideas for the bet, but the best was a costume that I would have to wear for a two-week training camp in Europe. We thought it would be hilarious if I were to wear a Captain America costume for the two weeks. During my time in the heroic costume, I had to have it on whenever I wasn’t training, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and to the hill. After the embarrassment wore off, I started to see the idea behind the bet, and that was to have fun. Little did I know that that summer would lead into my best overall ranking on world cup, my first podiums, as well as my only world championship medal!
BREAKFAST of CHAMPIONS… Taylor making good on the bet.
IF IT AIN’T FUN, DON’T DO IT… SO MAKE IT FUN – as Taylor learned from his Nordic combined elders. After the Captain America camp, he went on to have his best season ever.