On March 6, 1938, 24 year old Johanne Kolstad from Dokka, Norway, set her latest world ski jump record of 72 meters in New Hampshire, USA, a record that would stand for 35 years.
Such a young woman should not be forgotten. In a ski jumping world dominated by men, she and other women struggled to gain respect as athletes. It would take many years before their goal would be achieved at Holmenkollen with the advent of the women’s jumping competition.Until then Johanne had mostly done test jumps and entertainment performances during intermissions. But this she did so well that she got a good skijumping name – worthily reminded at the exhibition “Queen of Skis” at HolmenkollenSkiMuseum. The exhibition lasts through September this year.
Kolstad’s years in America were a sporting success, flooded with offers across the country, she was a topic of conversation in all US ski communities.
“The Queen of Skis” received invitations from Norwegian American ski clubs across the United States: Detroit, Salt Lake City, Auburn, Greenfield, New Boston and Portland. Johanne Kolstad was the young ski champion that everyone wanted to see and meet.
In December 1937 she was the main attraction at an indoor winter event at Madison Square Garden in New York, performing single and triple jumps. Her homespun trousers were then replaced by red silk.
Two months later, Kolstad was a guest in Montreal, Canada. In an Alaskan dog sled, the popular ski champion was taken to the city hall where she was received by the Mayor of Montreal.
A newspaper reported that she was “starting to get Americanized, so the outlook is promising. Miss. Kolstad, who last winter conversed with her American admirers by answering in her local Norwegian dialect, now has the American language in her power.”
The Norwegian press was curious about the new life of Johanne. Mrs. Bruun, wife of the president of the Norway Club, Fred Bruun, reveals: “Johanne has never smoked, does not drink coffee, eats almost no meat, does not know what gin is, but drink milk and eat seven bananas a day.”
Ski historian Karin Berg is perhaps the person in Norway who knows most about ski jumping for women. In 1998 she published the book “Hopp jenter – hopp!” (Jump Girls – Jump !) in which Johanne was thoroughly portrayed. Berg wrote the book in cooperation with Johanna’s daughter, Anne Marie Aastad Braten. Karen Berg is at present director of the Holmenkollen Ski Museum, and participated also in a program about Johanne in the NRK (Norwegian Radio Cooperation) series “Forgotten heroes”.
Written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): Skiforeningen, Norge