Herman “Jackrabbit” Smith-Johannsen
Herman Smith-Johannsen was one-of-a-kind.
Clarence L Servold was born March 28, 1927 in Camrose, Alberta. An outstanding competitor, coach and administrative official, his association with the skiing community spanned a period of 35-years at all levels of involvement, local, provincial, national and international. In 1988, at the XV Olympic Winter Games held at Calgary Alberta, his dedication to the sport was recognized by the International Olympic Committee when he was invited to light the Olympic flame at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Further, his contribution at the Calgary Games was a key factor in the success of the Nordic events.
After several years of local competition, he attained national prominence in 1948 when he became Canada’s Junior Nordic Combined (cross country skiing and ski jumping) Champion.
He represented Canada on the national ski team at the 1956 VII Olympic Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, where in cross country competition he placed 19th in the 15 km Classic event, the highest placing for a North American athlete. Invited to represent Canada again the 1960 VIII Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley, USA, he competed in the 15 km and 30 km cross country Classic events as well at Nordic Combined. Career commitments forced him to decline an opportunity to join Canada’s team for a third time when it competed at the 1964
Olympic Winter Games, Innsbruck, Austria.
In 1956, he attended the University of Denver, Colorado, USA, where in the 1958 NCAA cross country championship he finished four minutes ahead of his nearest competitor. At that time, in December 1958, the Denver Post referred to him as “…the best cross-country man in college history”. He won the championship again in 1959 and also held the United States 15 km Cross Country title for two consecutive years in 1959 and 1960. In 2004, he was inducted into the University of Denver’s Ski Hall of Fame.
He returned to Canada in 1960 to coach the Canadian Nordic Ski team at the World Ski Championships held in Zakopane, Poland, followed, in 1963, by an appointment to the Cross-Country Committee by the Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS), the first Canadian to be represented on this committee.
The following year, in 1964, he continued to be competitively active with a 1st place finish at the Canadian Nordic Championships. Two years later, he coached the Canadian Nordic team at Oslo, Norway.
A professional engineer, he was active as a team member in the development of several ski facilities. Among them, the site of the 1971 Canada Winter Games, Black Strap Mountain, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, for which he participated in the design of the mountain contours, ski facilities layout, cross country site, ski jump, etc. He was also a consultant in the design and planning of the 1975 Canada Winter Games site at Lethbridge, Alberta as well as acting as an official for the events.
He was also involved in the design of a number ski jump facilities (often redesigns), ski lift installations and cross country courses in British Columbia, Alberta, Sakatchewan and Ontario and consulted to the Canadian Ski Association and Sports Canada on the development of a 5-year plan to enhance the high performance potential of the Nordic Combined discipline.
NOTE: Photo below: Spectators at Camrose Ski Jump, 1954. Spectators at Camrose Ski Jump, 1954 (Provincial Archives of Alberta, PA237.1). RETROactive / Exploring Alberta’s Past. The Camrose Ski Club, as the Fram became known, remained at the heart of ski jumping in Alberta through the 1950s. The Servold brothers, Clarence and Irwin, who represented Canada at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, continued the tradition of those early Camrose jumpers who mentored them.
Please Note: The ski information gathered here is compiled from a number of sources; it may not be inclusive of all accomplishments.
Copyright © 2021, Canadian Ski Museum. For Personal/Educational use only. All Rights Reserved.
Sign up for the Snow Times newsletter, and join a community that celebrates Canada’s pioneers and visionaries.SUBSCRIBE