Hall of Fame Class of 1966
Ishpeming’s Conrad Thompson was one of many excellent ski jumpers at the turn of the 20th century. But this American born athlete was the first to be crowned national ski jumping champion.
The Ishpeming Ski Club was established on January 24, 1887 as the Norden Ski Club, the third organized ski club in the country – after the Nansen Ski Club of Berlin, New Hampshire (Jan. 15, 1882) and the Aurora Ski Club of Red Wing (Jan.19, 1886. A year after its founding the Norden Ski Club changed its name to Den Nordiske (Nordic) Ski Club, to reflect its ethnic makeup, and held the first formal tournament on Feb. 25, 1888. Business during club meetings was mostly transacted in Norwegian. The club prospered for a few years after which jumping in the Midwest experienced a brief and unexplained slump (in the mid1890s).
With the arrival of the Finns the name of the club was changed again, on April 18, 1901, to the Ishpeming Ski Club. This was under the leadership of Carl Tellefsen (often called “ Father of the American Ski Sport”) and a dedicated group of men of whom Thompson was one. Conrad Thompson was one of the members who worked hard, under Tellefsen’s leadership, to form a national organization. Grand tournaments held all over the Midwest during these years drew thousands of spectators.
On Feb. 22, 1904, the Ishpeming Ski Club held its 18th annual ski jumping tournament on the club’s Brasswire Hill. A large crowd of an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 gathered to watch 200 athletes jump for prize money. Con Thompson who had been coached by top jumpers, Carl Tellefsen and Aksel Holter, beat out the competition with a point total of 276 2/3, well above that of his nearest competitor.
An account of his victory in The Mining Ore said ”Ishpeming claims to have pulled off the greatest ski tournament ever held in the United States and it also insists that Mr. Thompson is champion of America, a title he has fairly won…His performance of Monday places Mr. Thompson at the head of American ski jumpers, and all riders present agree that this distinction is his, and it is one he has well earned.”
His win of $60 boosted Thompson into the professional class. He continued competing for the Ishpeming Club until 1909.
A year later he left his sport and Ishpeming to pursue his fortune in the newly opening mine fields of Northern Ontario in Canada. He married a woman from Ishpeming’s neighboring town of Negaunee and together they raised a family of eight children. He became a respected businessman in the Canadian mining industry. He died in Toronto on May 25, 1963.
Conrad Thompson was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1966.
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