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U.P. Ski Jumper's Olympic Experience 50 Years Ago

U.P. Ski Jumper's Olympic Experience 50 Years Ago

By John Maino. CREATED Feb 11, 2014

Iron Mountain, MI -- In Green Bay, kids dream of being a Packer. In New York, it's a Yankee. In Indiana, maybe a basketball star. But in the border town of Iron Mountain, Michigan, generations of kids have spent their winters gliding through the air with hopes of Olympic glory.

It's a passion for a sport documented on a national scale back in the 1940's. Young kids honing their craft at the most basic level and always dreaming of the day they would jump off of famed Pine Mountain. Dozens have advanced to international competition. A select few, like Dick Rahoi, rose to the very top competing in both the 1956 Olympics in Italy and 1960 games in Squaw Valley, California.

"We came from small towns, never been anywhere except the country here, then all of a sudden you're thrown into a big show like that. It's a big difference," said Rahoi. 

It's elite competition where performance can depend on how you handle the big stage.

"Depends on confidence is what it is. Some guys you just know they're going to be there and some tingling inside and your knees are shaking a little bit," said Rahoi. 

When it comes to the Olympics, walking in the opening ceremony is as memorable as a great performance.

"We were walking down, our team, and you know they're trading pins so on and so forth. You never forget, and it's with you the rest of your life."

Some of the basics of the sport have obviously changed.     

"We were on wood skis, can you believe that, in Germany with skis flying at 72 miles per hour on a pair of wooden planks."

Now athletes wear one-piece, aerodynamic suits and a helmet. Back then, it was wool pants, a sweater and possibly a knit hat. 

"Very seldom would you see a guy spill. We had soft snow and kickers. Ice track at noon and the landing was soft. The snow wasn't hard enough. They put different types of snow there to change the speed, and it was a whole different ball game."

The injuries would often fade, but the memories live forever.

"We were very proud. It was very overwhelming, let's put it that way."