Pictures, and a chat with Mike Holland about his
World Record Ski Jump
(Find the link below to a video of this jump)

Mike in flight Planica, Yugoslavia, March 15, 1985, the World Ski Flying Championships, where Mike Holland of Norwich VT set a new World Distance Record for ski jumping, 186 meters (610 feet).

Snow fell gently on March 15, 1985 as the best ski flyers in the world assembled on the big hill in Planica, Yugoslavia to find out who was the best of all. As often happens, organizers had enlarged the flying hill for the 1985 World Championships, and a world record was expected.

The competitors thrilled the crowd with many long jumps and when Mike Holland's number came up, he flew 186 meters, over 600 feet and farther than any ski jumper had ever flown in competition. The fireworks were not over, waiting in the wings was The King, Matti Nykaenen who eclipsed Mike's mark by a meter. These are two pictures of Mike Holland's world record jump (actually one picture and then a detail of the same picture).
See ABC's video of this record jump.


Mike in flight
Serene at sixty five miles per hour and thirty feet in the air!
(Photo: Sasa Miklavc, Miklosiceva 18, 61000 Lubljana, Slovenija)

In the fall of 1999, web editor Don West had an opportunity to chat with Mike Holland about his world record jump.

DW: Mike, what was the weather like the day of the World Ski Flying Championship?

MH: Gentle snow coming down. Calm. 25 degrees or so.

DW: Were you as serene as you look in the photograph?

MH: "Nope. I was very focused but not serene. I actually was wearing a heart rate monitor that day, supplied by the team's sport psychologist. Each time I jumped my heart rate went up to about 185 bpm."

DW: What were your feelings and emotions before, during and after your record jump?

MH: "I had a very unusual experience that day (guess that goes without saying). I actually set the World Record on my very first jump on Planica's ski flying hill. I remember looking down from the top of the gigantic hill and thinking to myself "hmm, I'm going to set the world record with this jump". It was as if I was able to look a few minutes into the future and watch what was about to happen. When I said to myself "hmm, I'm going to set the world record.." it was as if it was already a fact and I was simply accepting it. Never before did I have such a premonition. The experience was very strange.

"Two years earlier I had a similar experience at the '83 World Ski Flying Championships in Harrachov. There, I also had the opportunity to break the World Record on my first jump (record was 180 meters at that time). However, I wasn't mentally prepared. I "put on the brakes" and let myself down at 176 meters. For two years I kicked myself for not taking advantage of such an opportunity. Pavel Ploc, who DID set the world record in that competition, gave me endless grief after watching the video of the competition. I was so angry for throwing away a chance at the World Record that I decided to be prepared in case I ever had the opportunity again.

"Through my years with the US Team I was religious about mental training. Between '83 and '85 I probably set the World Record (with imagery) about 500 times. So, one reason for my strange premonition was that I knew I was ready; I had trained very well the day before on Plainca's K120, the conditions were right and I felt very confident."

DW: How about the jump itself, what was it like?

MH: The World Record jump was very smooth. It felt like I was lying on my stomach on a glass coffee table watching a movie projected on a screen underneath the table. Although the flight was very smooth it seemed like the movie projector was running the film faster than intended.

DW: Did you prefer ski flying to 90 and 120 meter jumping?

MH: I actually enjoyed K120 hills the most. However, ski flying was my speciality. I think this was due to mental strength - my ability to focus on technique when most other jumpers were distracted by adverse conditions or the sheer size of the hill. Some people, however, might not call it mental strength but rather a low level of self-preservation, or crazy. Still, I'm trying to figure out where else in life that mental strength / craziness will help out. Any suggestions (...chuckle)?

DW: Am I right that yours was the first-ever jump over 600 feet?

MH: Nope. Some Journalist said that, but was wrong. My jump was 610 ft (186m). Before I set the World Record it was 607 ft (185m) - Nykaenen. I broke Nykaenen's record and later that day he broke my record by one meter. I think Nykaenen upped the record to 190 the next day.

DW: Was that really the jump of your life, or does some other jump stand above it in your mind?

MH: "I would say that the most memorable jump of my life was in Harrachov at the World Ski Flying Championships in '83. The day before, we were training on the K120 next to the ski flying hill. On my last practice jump I started twisting in the air and didn't stop until landing on my left side at about 100m. The fall knocked the wind out of me. I was lying in a heap at the bottom of the landing gasping for air as I glanced up at the gigantic ski flying hill. I couldn't breathe and I thought 'that's where my next jump is going to be?'

"With my ego and confidence bruised we returned to the Hotel for the night. I didn't sleep much that night because I wasn't sure if I was going to be safe on the ski flying hill the next day.

"Several world class jumpers were injured the next day. Horst Bulau, then ranked 2nd in the world, was carried off in an ambulance with a concussion. Jens Weissflog also tipped over and left in an ambulance. In front of me in the start was Wolfgang Stiert. From the take off area his coach yelled up to him 'Wolfgang, don't jump!' A big smile came over Wolfgang's face as he picked up his skis and walked off the starting platform. I fully expected Greg Windsperger to give me the same instruction as I waved to him through the fog and the rain. No such luck, however. Greg simply gave me the wave, signaling me to jump. I took a big gulp and pulled out of the start. As I approached the transition I remember thinking 'this speed is absurd, I shouldn't be going this fast'. Climbing over the knoll I thought 'this is SO damned high, I shouldn't be this high'. Since I wasn't ready for such height and speed I threw out my arms at the end of the flight and let myself down four meters short of the World Record."

DW: It has been almost 15 years since your world record jump. What are you doing now? I seem to recall that both you and (younger brother, nordic combined champion) Joe were back in the family business at one point.

MH: Joe is with the family business. He is CFO. I am not with the company. I started my own company [in 1998]. We develop consumer products and medical devices. It looks promising. Lots of neat products in various stages of development. Some finished and going out into the world. Our first sales will be in January 2000 on QVC and in a chain of hardware stores.

(Editor's note -- Mike was not the first U.S. jumper to throw away a chance at a world record. About 20 years earlier, three time National Champion Gene Kotlarek of Duluth MN had a similar experience. "I had a world record in my back pocket, but I backed out and sat down.")