Off to Oslo; good news?

By Bill Kerig

As we prepare to go to Oslo, Norway, to film the 2011 Nordic World Championships, I'm sensing a change in the air (again). OK, I thought there was change in the air for the women ski jumpers in late 2010 when the IOC Exec Board held its press conference from Acapulco. It turned out I was wrong. They decided not to decide whether or not to include women in the next Olympic Games.

Now, a new groundswell of positive press, including these:

Globe and Mail


Stay tuned as we'll be updating the life and times of our crew while filming in Norway later this week and next week. Mark your calendars as Friday, Feb. 25 is the day of the women's ski jumping event.


Kasper tips his hand?

From our Ready To Fly trailer you'll remember Gian-Franco Kasper as the guy who famously said that ski jumping was not appropriate for ladies "from a medical point of view." He is the head of the FIS, the governing body of international ski competition, and one of the hold-backs to welcoming women's ski jumping into the Olympics.

However, it may be that he's seen the light.

Read an excerpt from an interview that he gave recently. In it he tips his hand. 

This bodes well for women ski jumpers, and for a glass-ceiling-shattering ending to our film...

Q&A with Gian-Franco Kasper: Skiing World Champs; New Olympic Events

Excerpt from "Around the Rings", Feb. 2, 2011

"Skiers aren't the only ones with a lot on the line at this month's FIS competitions.

It’s after this winter sports season that IOC president Jacques Rogge will decide which events to add to the Olympic program ahead of Sochi 2014.

FIS has five events in the running, all of which are on display at this year's world championships.

Snowboard slopestyle had its chance to shine late last month in La Molina, Spain.

Ski slopestyle and halfpipe runs are underway at the freestyle world champs this week in Deer Valley, Utah.

A team event must prove its worth at the Feb. 8-20 alpine world champs in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Munich 2018’s proposed ski site.

Women's ski jumping will again look for acceptance at the Feb. 22-March 6 Nordic world champs in Oslo after getting turned down twice in its efforts to be on the Vancouver program.

It's up to FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper to ensure each event lives up to its potential and each world championship runs smoothly...

ATR: What must the events show this month in order to win Jacques Rogge’s approval and be added to the Olympic program?

GFK: That’s a good question, you know. That’s his own opinion. But in principle, it must be shown that those are events that have sufficient high-level participation worldwide - of course, that’s number one – but also that they are spectacular for the public. I think those are the most important things.

If you look at ladies’ ski jumping, the reason why it was rejected by the IOC for Vancouver was that the number of nations and athletes involved was not sufficient on one hand. On the other hand, there were only very very few ladies in ski jumping who were on a high level or on a sufficient level for Olympics. I think it can be relatively easily proven to the IOC that those things have changed. That goes, of course, also for the other events..."


New York City 1.21.11

By Bill Kerig

Lindsey Van and I flew to New York to meet with RTF producer Scott Zeller, co-producer Allison Prouty, executive producers Kim Brown and Gina Ghent, as well as women’s ski jumping supporters John Schroeter and Armins Rusis. We subwayed from JFK into town, arriving just in time to meet the team at Montenapo, a fine Italian restaurant in mid-town. An excellent night of food, wine, and free-flowing ideas.

Friday, in the dappled sun of NY’s canyons, we hoofed it for probably five miles, weaving from Times Square, down to the World Trade Center, over to the Financial District, the Bowery, NoHo, Chinatown, Little Italy, East Village, and on up to Grand Central and back to Port Authority for another subway ride back to JFK.

Twenty-four hours in the city? That’s just about right. Leaving the canyons of NY for the mountains of UT. Can’t wait to get up to Alta to ski with my wife and kids today.


Wings of Desire

By Bill Kerig

Landing in Frankfurt, the sky closes in, fog wrapping the plane in dense grayness. I’ve landed in a Wim Wenders movie: Wings of Desire. I haven’t seen it for a decade, but this black and white world brings it all back. The angel wants to give up his wings and become human again. For love, I think. There must be some deep significance to thinking about this 1980s film. Wings… ski jumpers… flying… I don’t know. The lingering effects of the Ambien that I’d taken to sleep on the plane has me thinking sideways.

Wanting to shoot the gothic runway, I pull the camera out — white balancing, looking for focus. And then He is there. He. It’s always the same guy. Him. Officious. Slightly perturbed. Him, whose German I don’t need to understand to know that it’s time to move along.

Bill filming in the fog.The bag with my jacket and boots and tripod is still in Paris and I’m in the rental car, weaving out of the city, following the Google map directions to the Autobahn. Opaque sheets of rain, fog jumping my speeding Galaxy van. The Ambien plays tug of war with caffeine for control of my eyelids. Driving 100 miles an hour, I’m getting passed like a Sunday driver. Then, a blinding flash somewhere near Mannheim. Strobed, I’ve just received a speeding ticket. Been blitzed. I guess I was in a construction zone. Before I leave this country, I will get two more blitzes.

East of Freiburg, Google says the wrong thing. It says to keep going, but I just saw the sign for … what’s that place… something-zarten? Computers! I pull off and roll into a dark hamlet of bone-white buildings, dull and picturesque like backdrops in a Turner Classic movie. Texting Lindsey Van, I find out that the team’s hotel is 5 kilometers out of town. I make a guess and drive. More rain. Not a soul on the street. Three attempts at other roads sends me into a café where the maître d tells me I’m in Kirchzarten, not Hinterzarten. Maybe the computer wasn’t so wrong after all.

The wine in the Backhof-Helme is plain but good and Lindsey is telling me about their abbreviated competition in Schonach, when a very drunk man attempts to walk across the room, stumbles, and crashes to the floor violently. The noise is loud and the man doesn’t get his hands out in front — head hitting the floor with a melon thump. Lindsey is the only one who jumps up to help. When she sees his friends laughing at him, she stops and sits back down. Bleeding from the nose and mouth, he crawls up to a chair and sits again at a table where there’s another beer.

Coach Kjell Magnussen and Photographer Peter Pilafian.A few days before I arrived, a 17-year-old Italian jumper died suddenly at the hotel where the U.S. team was staying. No one knows why she died. An athlete, a kid, she passed out and then passed away. Her coaches did CPR and the paramedics tried as well. Suspecting meningitis, doctors put the U.S. team on antibiotics. Coach Kjell Magnussen tells me he’s sorry I came over for this trip. The Italian girl… the weather, says Kjell, finishing his thought with a slow shake of the head.

At the venue, I’m wearing Kjell’s jacket and Lindsey’s extra gloves and shooting ski jumping in the rain. Battling stomach upset from the antibiotics and a general malaise, the team of Jessica Jerome, Alissa Johnson, Abby Hughes, and Lindsey rallies to respectable results in the first of the day’s two competitions. The second competition is cut short. In a violent snow squall, Jessica and Lindsey clutch stuffed animals and flowers in the awards ceremonies.

The Autobahn is a parking lot and the rain keeps coming. Braunlage, in the north of Germany, seems unreachable. I’m three hours late to pick up cinematographer Peter Pilafian in Frankfurt. While there, I somehow find my bag (the one that’s been lost for the last two days) being loaded into a van. I reclaim it and test the Galaxy’s upper-end speeds through a tunnel of fog and wet, four hours to Braunlage.

The innkeeper laughs like Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein. His name is Ralph. Ralph sniggers and he haggles in a very un-German manner, and then gives me a good room rate. Ralph puts Peter and me in the attic. The women ski jumpers have the panorama view over the poma lift, but they’re not noticing how sad it looks, abandoned in the rain. They are all on their computers. Skyping, chatting, watching hilarious videos on YouTube. David After The Dentist is a favorite.

On the following day, training is canceled. So, we shoot the women hanging out, talking about not jumping. Talking about jumping. Talking about when can we go home. There’s pizza. There’s volleyball and training in a school gym. And then they’re answering my ridiculous questions patiently, especially the one where I ask “If you could be any animal in the world, which one would you be?” (A question I stole from old Greg Stump films). Abby would be an orca, Jessica a cat. Alissa tends toward raptor, and Lindsey says she’d be a soft furry animal. Abby laughs like Lindsey’s making a joke.

Ralph is serving breakfast in lederhosen, muttering Marty Feldman. Ralph’s wife is laughing at some private joke. A large man from Holland is drinking beer, holding a small dog in a sweater. Maybe this is a Fellini movie.

Jenny SchombergThe mud is over the axles on the road to the ski jump. The ski jump is cloaked in fog. To get to the top of the jump, you start in a wood shop, and then climb waterlogged stairs in the dark. The wind nearly blows Pilafian off the top of the jump. The track is made of ceramic, a summer track. The landing is snow. The finish area is downhill and bumpy.

The least-skilled jumpers go first. The Chinese, new to this sport, start off. The first jumper Bambi-legs it into the finish area fence, and then gamely comes up for more. The U.S. jumpers are near the end of the order, jumping fairly well. Jessica and Lindsey lead the team, with Abby and Alissa posting top-15 results. The DJ plays a bizarre German-techno version of John Denver’s Country Roads. Lindsey gives her flowers to German ski jumping aficionado/teacher/author Jenny Schomberg. Her smile may be the brightest thing we’ve seen in a week. Pilafian snaps a picture. Country Roads wraps up with a sneakers-in-the-drier beat. Take me home. Ya vol.





Raindance in Braunlage

The rain didn't stop all day, but the women kept their spirits up at the bib ceremony in Braunlage, Germany.

Smiling here through the rain/snow-soaked camera are Jessica Jerome, Alissa Johnson, Abby Hughes and Lindsey.

See more photos on RTF Facebook.