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Tom Koehler has Olympic sports in his blood

    JUPITER -- Perhaps more than any player on the Marlins, Tom Koehler is intensely interested in the Winter Olympics. As pitchers and catchers were reporting to spring training Sunday and putting their lockers in order, Koehler was about the only person keeping an eye on the clubhouse television, which was turned to figure skating from the Sochi games.

      IMG_20140216_121207_951Koehler's interest goes beyond the fact he's from New York state. He said his grandfather, Josef Koehler, was a top ski jumper for Germany in the late 1930s and early '40s. Koehler said Josef was chosen to represent Germany in the 1944 Winter Olympics.

     "It's a little known fact on the family tree," Koehler said.

     But Josef Koehler never had a chance to jump in the Olympics. Due to the war in the European theater, the '44 Games were cancelled. Not only that, but Koehler said his grandfather ended up driving a tank for the German army, fighting against the Allies.

      "What he went through at that point, the Olympics were the least of his concern," Koehler said. "It (fighting for Germany) wasn't something he was proud of. If I remember correctly, he told me it was either join or get killed. So it's pretty simple, when you're that age, what your choice is going to be. If they didn't join, they would kill you."

       Koeher said when his grandfather died in 2006, his funeral card contained a photograph of him as a ski jumper.

       As for Koehler, the ski jumping gene wasn't passed down to him.

       "I can't get off the bunny hill on a snowboard," Koehler said. "I tried when I was younger. I would go a couple of times and I guess that just wasn't genetic."

       The photo above, provided by the Koehler family, shows Josef Koehler in action in his ski jumping days.