Olympian Jungle Jim Hunter From Olympic podium to speaking stage
by Dorothy Lethbridge
The name Jungle Jim Hunter was almost a household name for many Canadians living in the mid-70s to early 80s. Often TV gave glimpses of the shenanigans of Jungle Jim, soon to be dubbed “The Original Crazy Canuck”.
He and his teammates represented Canada in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics, World Cups and numerous international skiing events.
He was Canada’s first ever male skier to secure a medal as he won a bronze in the 1972 World Ski Championships. He was Canada’s most hopeful male skier as he entered the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, and also participated in the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
Jungle, as he still is often called today, was given his name by a fellow teammate because Jim wore a safari hat one day for a hike. The name stuck and grew to encompass his unusual training techniques.
Living on his family farm in Shaunavon, SK, Jungle trained with what was available to him. Being a farm boy he did his 14 hours a day on an open cab tractor pulling a 19 foot cultivator. As Jungle reflected, “I did most of my training on the seat of the tractor. I would do one arm pushups stretched across the seat and steering wheel. I had a pail of bungee cords and another of weights as I lifted and pulled and jumped and bounced in what I considered was my mobile gym. There was no way I was going to just sit and drive, though I did manage to wear out that seat. In those days I was known to be able to do 250 one arm push-ups and 1500 sit-ups as a result of the time on the tractor.”
Jungle also put himself in the big tractor tire wheel to work on his balance as the tractor was driven the length of two power poles – about 300 meters. The creative athlete built a moveable start ramp out of straw in the barn’s loft to practice starting on rainy days. Jungle innovatively used what was available to him and it worked.
Jungle also would strap himself to the top of his dad’s pickup while crouching in the ski position; his dad drove upwards to speeds of 70 miles/hour down gravel roads while Jungle remained balanced on top. These 20 minute prairie dust rides made a difference which later paid off on the snowy ski slopes.
In 1974 The National Film Board produced a documentary on Jungle Jim called Sword of the Lord, which further popularized the athlete after it was shown on CBC. This footage can be viewed through Jungles web site www.junglejimhunter.com. The production gives glimpses into the life, training, and interaction between Jungle and his teammates as well as interaction with his family, as they sang hymns around the piano, and glimpses could be seen of his soon to be wife, Gail, now married for 42 years.
Jungle Jim’s accomplishments went on to include managing the Olympic Torch Relay for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, where he raised funds for athletes and coaches through the Torch Relay Legacy Fund.
This launched him into numerous public speaking opportunities. Speaking continues to be a passion for Jungle as he has become a sought-after motivational speaker for corporations and non-profit organizations alike.
Jungle remains creative with what he does in encouraging others. He reflects, “I was born in 1953 and have made a practice of setting a reminder at the 53rd minute-mark of every waking hour to stop and give thanks for all those who supported my growth and development. My mission in life is to inspire, communicate, and educate everyone I meet towards excellence and growth for life.”
He is currently working on his book, Time On Task, which teaches strategies for stepping forward and reflects on how he rose from the prairies to the Olympic podium in six years. He challenges the reader, “Is your time on task or are you just putting in time?”
He was recently named the 2018 Honorarium Chairman of the Ski For Heart, one of the annual fund-raisers for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. He spoke and participated in what became their biggest fund-raiser to date.
Jungle Jim Hunter continues to embraces a speaking schedule as he goes from the podium to the stage.