What you need to know about Ski Jumping

Whether pre-planned and purposeful or entirely accidental, we’ve all experienced the sensation of hurtling through the air, skis or a snowboard attached to our feet, landing site to be confirmed. I can’t help but wonder whether it was such an experience that inspired Norwegian Ole Rye to make a sport out of ski jumping.

Ole certainly started a craze; Norway continues to be the dominant force in ski jumping to this day, with 35 Olympic medals in the national team.

In fact it was at the inaugural Chamonix Winter Olympics in 1924 that ski jumping became truly competitive. Long before the slalom and downhill skiing events that we know and love today, ski jumping delivered thrills, spills, celebrity athletes and a quest to travel higher, further and longer on two planks of wood.

Over the years fliers have developed new styles to keep them in the air for longer. The modern ski jump sees flyers adopt a v-style with skis splayed outwards at the front. It’s estimated that the v-style gives ski jumpers a 10% distance advantage over the previous parallel ski style. And of course the hills have become steeper and the jumps longer over the years.

Another recent addition to the technique is the telemark landing position. This enables flyers to steady themselves on the snow before the landing slope comes to an end; I guess when you’re travelling through the air at speeds of up to 105 kmh, coming down is just as important as going up.

It’s likely that Eddie the Eagle Edwards has already popped into your mind as you read this article. Better known these days as Michael Edwards, he shot to fame when he represented Great Britain at the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988, finishing last in the competition but capturing the imagination of the nation. Eddie’s incredible story became a biographical movie in 2016, making the plasterer from Cheltenham a little bit famous all over again.

Aside from the world records, top speeds and medals, ski jumping captivates because it’s so very different to every other winter Olympic sport; nothing comes close and it’s absolutely not something you can simply turn up and try. Beginner snowboarders could easily tackle a border cross course, the likely outcome is a face full of snow but the risks are relatively small. Feeling bold on your final run of the day? It’s loads of fun to slalom race your mates down the home run. Yet nothing you will do on an average day during your winter holiday will compare to hoisting yourself up a 120m hill and launching yourself like a rocket. And it’s for this reason I believe we should all pay a little more attention to ski jumping.

Here’s seven things you need to know…

  1. Ski jumping events take place at the Beijing Games between 5th and 14th February 2022 and there are fi ve separate disciplines; men’s normal hill (90m hill) individual, men’s large hill (120m hill) individual, men’s team event, women’s normal hill individual and a mix team event, which is brand new to the Olympics this year.
  2. 26-year-old Norwegian Maren Lundby has three consecutive World Cup titles plus gold medals from the 2018 Games, making her the jumper to beat in Beijing. The men’s competition is much tighter with German Andreas Wellinger the odds-on favourite. He’s a four-time Olympic champion and won gold in the normal hill competition in PyeongChang, but no athlete has successfully defended their title in the history of the sport, so it’s all to play for.
  3. Morzine was once home to two ski jumps and even hosted international competitions. The fi rst was located on the hill behind L’Hauturière and was constructed in 1925, nine years before Morzine’s fIrst ski lift. A second hill was constructed along the Vallée des Ardoisières.
  4. During the competitions, each jump is evaluated by the distance travelled and the style of the jump. The distance is determined by measuring along the curve of the landing hill, from the takeoff point to the spot where the jumper lands.
  5. At the Beijing Games, ski jumping takes place on the fi rst permanent Olympic course in the world. It’s 164 metres long and is part of the National Jumping Centre in the Zhangjiakou cluster, where the snowboarding, freestyle skiing, cross-country skiing and biathlon events will also take place.
  6. Whilst watching ski jumping you might wonder why someone planted small green trees on the course. These are to help the fl yers with their depth and altitude perception whilst mid air and to help them prepare for landing.
  7. Norwegian (you guessed it) Stefan Kraft currently holds the world record for the longest ski jump at 253.5m. By comparison, Eddie the Eagle jumped 71m at the Calgary Games in 1988 and the current British record is held by Sam Bolton at 134.5m.

Have you ever herd of these other Winter olympic Sports?

Ski joëring

Included as a demonstration sport at the 1928 Games in St. Moritz, ski joëring involves skiing while pulled by the power of a horse. It’s not currently an Olympic sport but you can give it a go in Avoriaz this winter, courtesy of Avoriaz Ski Joering.

Ski Ballet

Also known as acroski, this freestyle event involves choreographed routines with flips, jumps and turns on a smooth slope. We’ve all tried this one, surely? Ski ballet was a demonstration sport during the 1988 Calgary Games and in Albertville in 1992.

Military Patrol

A precursor to the biathlon, Military Patrol was a team sport involving cross country skiing, rifle shooting and ski mountaineering. It debuted as an offi cial sport at the Chamonix Games in 1924.

Winter Pentathlon

A demonstration event in St. Moritz in 1928, the Winter Pentathlon combines cross country skiing, rifl e shooting, downhill skiing, fencing and horse riding into one competition. It never became a mainstream Olympic event unfortunately!

What you need to know about Ski Jumping
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