By THERESA PROUDFIT
IRON MOUNTAIN - Former U.S. Junior World Ski jumping team member Tony Benzie of Iron Mountain is back on the hill.
Tony Benzie checks out the Pine Mountain ski-jumping slide as workers prepare for this year’s competition. A local favorite in the late 1980s and early 1990s at Pine Mountain, Benzie hopes to jump one last time at Pine Mountain.
Benzie was a local favorite in the late 1980s and early 1990s at Pine Mountain. He was a Junior World Cup jumper and Senior Continental Cup jumper. He currently jumps in the Masters Class.
After getting his feet wet by taking a few jumps on "a couple small hills" in 2012 and 2013, Benzie is wrapping up the 2013-14 season with a Masters Competition victory and more than 70 jumps under his belt.
"I just wanted to see if I could still do it," said Benzie who will be jumping at the Suicide Hill Ski Bowl in Ishpeming on Wednesday evening.
The Masters Competition consisted of five events including St. Paul, Minn., Madison, Eau Claire, Chicago and the Nationals at Wisconsin Rapids. Benzie took first place in the division.
It's been 20 years since he's trained to ski jump, and one of the reasons Benzie has been so active in events this season is to practice for his main goal, giant Pine Mountain. The last time Benzie jumped at Pine Mountain was in 1993. He was 23 years old.
"Pine is the main hill I want to jump," he said. "I just want to ski here one more time."
Benzie, 43, says he doesn't plan to compete at Pine Mountain again.
"I don't have Continental Cup points and would have to go back to Europe and train. The only way to get points is to get selected to ski in other Continental Cups and place," he said. :It's not gonna get that serious. I would love to ski in the tournament but I would never be able to win this thing anymore."
What he would like is to jump for the home crowd again.
Benzie was hoping to be a fore runner in the 2014 Bellin Health Pine Mountain Continental Cup Ski Jumping Competition this weekend but it doesn't look like it will happen this year.
"They don't want me to get hurt," he said.
Still, he is confident he could jump the hill.
"I'm not gonna get hurt unless something out of the blue happens, a freak accident like a binding breaks. That could of happened to me when I was 15," he said.
Benzie knows the risk involved at Pine Mountain. Jumping the hill numerous times before, he remembers the days when his dad would check the wind speed for him.
"My dad wind flagged me all my life," he said. "There was never one hesitation, if he ever said it was good enough to ski, his hand dropped. I didn't care if there were tornadoes coming across the takeoff in the knoll, I knew when I got out off the takeoff it was gonna be fine."
"My dad lived here in the winter. He would watch the trees on the end of the parking lot out on Bellagomba Road, watch them move," he said. "He would watch the flag start picking up at the end of the out run and they would go crazy and then he would just watch. They would move, then they would stop. He would time it on his watch. Six seconds it took that gust to get from the trees to the landing. When the gust dies, there are 12 seconds between the gusts and then 6 seconds before it gets there. I had plenty of time. As soon as the flag started to die, he would flag me. By the time I got to the end it was calm. Afterwards it would come back up again." he said.
Benzie's father was American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame member Charlie Benzie, who passed away in 2006.
Tony Benzie is still hopeful he will get a chance to jump at Pine Mountain.
"I don't worry about getting hurt now. I don't have any more of a chance of getting hurt now than I did when I was 15," he said. "To be honest with you I'm smarter now than I was. I'm not gonna ski in bad conditions and I'm just a lot more aware of myself."
"My mind has grown. I can feel a lot more in the air. I can tell if something isn't just right. I just want to come out one more time in front of the crowd. I want that flying feeling one more time," he said.
Benzie has taken 70 rides this year and has two remaining tournaments.
Ishpeming's Suicide Bowl and the Coleraine Invitational in Coleraine, Minn.
The Suicide Bowl Ski Jumping Tournament will be held at 6 p.m. this Wednesday, Feb. 5, at the Ishpeming Ski Club, Ishpeming.
Admission buttons there will be $10 in advance and $15 at the gate. Kids 12 and under are free.
Theresa Proudfit's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.