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Saturday February 5, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- One of the most well-known jumpers of the last decade is hoping to strap on his skis and return to Brattleboro in two weeks.

Vladimir Glyvka, the last athlete to win the coveted winged ski trophy in 2000, plans to return to Harris Hill on Feb. 19 for the annual ski jumping tournament.

"I love that place, I love that place a lot. It’s been nothing but good luck," said Glyvka, presently living in Sherman, Ill., with his wife and 11-year-old daughter. "I’m looking forward to it. For me, it’s about the atmosphere and the crowd. I love coming to the [East Coast], I used to live in the East, I lived in Lake Placid, N.Y., for two years, and during that time we traveled all over the coast and that’s how I met everybody in Brattleboro."

Glyvka has thrilled crowds at Harris Hill for more than a decade, most recently at the 2010 tournament. He is one of only five ski jumpers to win the event three times, earning the honor of getting to take the sterling silver trophy home.

He won the Fred Harris Memorial Tournament in 1996, 1999 and 2000. His 1996 jump of 310 feet was a hill record for five years and remains one of the best results in the event’s history.

With its 90-meter Olympic-size ski jump, Harris Hill is one of the sport’s most legendary sites in the Northeast. The history and appeal of the small-town tournament is not lost on Glyvka.

"I love the place, I love the people, I love the atmosphere and they always treat me like their own," he said.

A fan favorite, Glyvka has warmed up crowds in the past by standing at the top of the platform and hollering down with a microphone to get the fans more excited and louder during his runs.

"He loves the crowds and the crowds love him," said Pat Howell, a member of the hill’s organizing committee. Glyvka constantly makes himself available to the fans during the event, she added.

"Vladimir has a lot of charisma and he’s such a joy to have around," Howell said. "He retired that trophy and to think that he would come back and compete on this hill again is quite a compliment to Harris Hill."

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In addition to his success in Vermont, Glyvka has also won the Norge Ski Jump Tournament in Illinois seven times where he is a member of the ski club.

Returning to the site of some of his greatest victories could inspire him to return to the professional ski jumping circuit and possibly a ticket to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

"I’m hoping to change the history books a little bit because the last Olympics was disappointing for me," he said, referring to the 2002 games in Salt Lake City, Utah. Glyvka has competed for the Ukrainian nation team in Salt Lake City and in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

"That was my better performance [in Nagano], but in 2002, I was not ready physically or mentally," he said. "I think at 37, I can still pull it physically, I got all the mental knowledge I need for the Olympics."

Born in the former Soviet Union (present-day Ukraine), Glyvka is the youngest of five siblings. Two of his brothers are also ski jumpers. His brother Oleg, who has also visited Harris Hill, was Vladimir’s coach in the 2002 Olympics.

Located just off Cedar Street, the ski jumping competition dates back to 1922 when the site was only a dream of Fred Harris, who went on to help establish outing clubs in Brattleboro and Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

The 2011 tournament is scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 19 and 20. Advance tickets are available at Galanes’ Vermont Shop and at the Brattleboro Chamber of Commerce and other downtown locations on Feb. 10.

On the Web:

-- harrishillskijump.com

Chris Garofolo can be reached at cgarofolo@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 ext. 275.