Stalions (A Rough Way to Ride Between Earth and Sky, 2003) offers an updated biography of star American ski jumper Casper Oimoen.
The pride of Minot, North Dakota (where a statue of him now stands), Casper Oimoen was a three-time national ski-jumping champion and two-time captain of the U.S. Olympic ski team. He was also Stalions’ father, and she seeks to immortalize him in this account of his accomplishments on and off the slope. Oimoen was a Norwegian immigrant who arrived in the United States in 1923 at the age of 17. He was initially registered at Ellis Island under the name “Simoen,” as the letter “S” is a common misrepresentation of the Norwegian letter “Ø.” This kept him from qualifying to represent the United States in the 1928 Winter Olympics, as officials were unable to obtain his immigration papers—which had been filed under “S.” Upon first arriving in eastern North Dakota, Casper was upset to notice the flatness of the terrain—Stalion imagines her father thinking, “Where are the hillocks for ski jumping?”—but he was later reassured by the slopes of Minot to the west. Using photos, letters, and Stallions’ own childhood journals, the author pieces together Oimoen’s career from apprentice brick mason to Olympian. She also illuminates his family life, which features both tragic loss and the joys of children and grandchildren. Stallions’ prose is simple but capable, and she effectively captures many dramatic moments from her parent’s life, such as those of the 1936 Winter Olympics in Nazi Germany. It is a brief work—fewer than 150 pages—and much of that page count is given over to black-and-white photographs, including some striking action shots of Oimoen mid-jump. The work is more of a loving tribute to the author’s father than it is a serious sports biography, and, as such, it’s unlikely to find a wide audience. However, readers who are interested in the early days of American skiing or the history of the Norwegian community of the Upper Midwest may enjoy it.
A well-sourced but hagiographic sports biography.