A Family Of Ski Jumpers
Ruud was born on August 23, 1911, in Kongsberg, Norway. Kongsberg is a mining town situated southwest of Oslo. Ruud and his brothers Sigmund and Asbjorn grew up skiing and jumping and participating in all manner of winter sports. Something in their upbringing contributed to producing three of Norway's best ski jumpers. Sigmund and Asbjorn won many titles of their own. Of the three, Birger would make the biggest mark in the world of international competition.
In 1931 Ruud won the first of three World Championships. That year he also set the world record in ski jumping when he registered a 76.5-meter jump in Odnesbakken, Norway. His gold at the World Championships
set the stage for his performance at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics. He surpassed the distances of his countryman, Hans Beck, and was awarded the gold medal.
After the Olympics, Ruud continued his winning streak. In 1934, while practicing jumps after competition in Planica, Slovenia, he became the first man to jump 92 meters. He also won first place in the ski jump at the Holmenkollen competition, the premier Norwegian skiing competition. In 1935, he won his second gold medal in the World Championships.
At the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics, held in 1936, Ruud competed in both the Nordic and the Alpine events, an unusual choice. Most skiers at that time specialized in one or the other, rarely attempting both. His attempt was successful though. The Alpine events combined downhill and slalom and Ruud placed first in the downhill. He would have placed first in the slalom and won the event but he missed a gate and was penalized 4.4 seconds. The penalty moved Ruud from first place to fourth. Despite not placing in the Alpine events, Ruud was able to defend his medal in the ski jump.
Ruud continued to compete internationally, and in 1937 won his third gold medal in the World Championships. Norway recognized his accomplishments by awarding him the Holmenkollen Medal, the highest possible award given by Norway to skiers. In 1938, he traveled to southern California to compete in the First Annual Southern California Open Ski Jump Meet. It was the first ever such meet held on man-made snow in southern California.