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If you are interested in sports, then around this season you may have seen ski jumping competitions: slim young men with huge skis sliding down a sheer slope and then flying through the air, while the audience cheers – or not. You may have also noticed the audience usually comprises a strong Polish group.
This is mostly due to the fact that Adam Małysz has been ski jumping like he had wings and leaving competition behind like his life depended on it, but in fact, Poland has quite a history of successful ski jumpers, mostly recruited from among the mountain population, who seem to have winter sports in their blood. Before Adam Małysz, there was Stanisław Marusarz, and he was one badass sportsman. In his time, there was no modern equipment, and the jumping technique would have been hilarious to a modern audience, since the competitors flapped their hands in the air, which was believed to boost their performance. Marusarz beat the world record in 1935, which got him some well deserved international attention, and was famously not awarded the gold in 1938 championships in Lahti, even though he made the longest jumps, leaving his rivals behind by a good few metres. Since Marusarz got lower style scores, the winner was Asbjørn Ruud, a Norwegian. Ruud. Had considered passing his medal onto Marusarz.
However, healthy competition in the name of sport had to take a back seat – as you can probably tell by the date. 1939 saw Marusarz join the AK resistance movement, performing the vital task of transporting information, critical parcels and important people through the mountain border. Finally caught by the border patrol, Marusarz was imprisoned, but managed to escape by jumping from the second storey window – this time without skis. Captured again after some time, he was offered a full pardon if he agreed to train Germany’s ski jumping competitors. When he refused, he was sentenced to death, but managed to escape.
Estranged from his wife, whom he didn’t want to endanger, Marusarz continued his work for the resistance, cheating death numerous times, until the war finally ended. He returned to Poland to train young sportsmen, and – a sign of a happier times – performed the inauguration jump at the Four Hills Tournament in 1966 wearing a suit and tie, aged 53. He lived to a ripe eighty, a sure sign that winter sports and patriotism are good for you.