Hall of Fame Class of 1959
Torger Tokle was a powerful ski jumper, dominating the sport in the United States from the day he arrived as a young Norwegian immigrant at the age of 19. In a career spanning six short years, he won 42 of 48 sanctioned tournaments and set 24 hill records. He gave his life while serving his newly adopted country during World War Two.
Torger Tokle was born in Lokken Verk, Norway in 1919, one of six brothers. The Tokle family was quite poor but their father made skis from barrel staves for them and Torger was skiing at age three. At six he was competing on forty-meter hills. The young skier showed much promise from the beginning.
Torger came to the United States on January 29, 1939 – a stocky 5 foot-6 ½ inch man. Eighteen hours after stepping off the boat from Norway, Torger set a record at the Bear Mountain Park Tournament in New York, the first in a sensational series of achievements he would accomplish in his all-too-short skiing career.
It is difficult to forget Torger Tokle’s first winter in America. Although he was designated a class “B” jumper due to a quirk in the National Ski Association rules, he soundly thrashed all the class “A” riders, winning seven of eight tournaments.
Tokle settled in Brooklyn, New York. When the top jumpers in the country converged on Berlin, New Hampshire for the international tryouts amid a throng of 30,000 spectators, he asked that he be allowed to compete in class ‘A” at the Eastern Championships at Laconia, New Hampshire the following week. Here was the opportunity for him to compete against his idol, Norwegian, Reider Andersen, the most stylish jumper in the world at the time. The duel was settled in a most satisfactory fashion: a dead heat between for first between Tokle and his countryman.
The following year, 1940, he won everything but the national title where his experience caused him to bow to the perennial of the time, Alf Engen. He never lost to Engen again.
A power jumper, Tokle won the national title in 1941. He did not have the form of a Reider Andersen or Alf Engen but what Tokle lacked in grace he made up for in distance, setting hill records on nearly every hill where he competed.
Tokle entered the US Army in October of 1942, serving first in the infantry and later transferring to the 10th Mountain Division. He was proud to serve his adopted country and paid the ultimate price by giving his life in action against the Germans during the famous Battle of Riva Ridge in Italy on March 3, 1945.
A top-flight sportsman to the every end, Torger Tokle was the kind of person everyone was proud to call a friend. His career, shortened by war, robbed the world of the opportunity to determine just how great he could have been at his sport. He has been referred to as the “Babe Ruth of Ski Jumping”.
Torger Tokle was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1959.
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