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Paul Bietila

Hall of Fame Class of 1970

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A native of Ishpeming, Michigan and fourth son of the famous Bietila family, Paul Bietila was possibly the nation’s top jumper at the time of his death in 1939.

The fourth son in a family of seven, Paul Bietila of Ishpeming, Michigan was a precocious ski jumper like his brothers and cousin, Coy Hill. Besides Paul, the famous “Flying Bietilas” included Olympian jumpers: Walter (1936), Roy (1940), Ralph (1948 and 1952) and nephew, Jack (1960).

On February 22, 1931, at age twelve, Paul hurtled into historical prominence by setting the junior boys’ jumping record of 185 feet. Over the years he continued to set a series of hill records. One of his greatest accomplishments may have been placing immediately behind the great Birger and Sigmund Ruud of Norway in the 1938 national jumping tournament. He also won first place the same year while representing Wisconsin at the International Intercollegiate Ski Meet in Brattleboro, Vermont.

According to the University of Wisconsin Badger, Paul Bietila was respected in the School of Physical Education “as a clear, logical thinker and keen scholar, but like his Finnish ancestors, he was first of all a man who enjoyed the outdoors. He loved snow and the winter and the cold. He loved best of all to ski. His devotion to skiing subordinated every other interest to the mastery of his love.”

As he was nearing his twenty-first birthday, Paul Bietila rode his skis for the last time on February 5, 1939. While performing a practice jump at the U.S. Nationals in St. Paul, Minnesota, he crashed into a restraining post at the edge of the outrun, sustaining injuries which took his life three weeks later, on February 26th. He was recognized as the best American jumper of his time and the Paul Bietila Memorial Trophy was given annually to the best ski jumper in the United States.

Paul Bietila was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1970.

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