Ski jumping is one of the most exciting and interesting disciplines of competitive skiing. You cannot help but be impressed by the bravery, skill, and dedication it takes to be a ski jumper.
This article will not only outline ski jumping history but will also talk about the technicalities of the sport. Therefore, you will get a complete picture of what ski jumping is all about.
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- What Is Ski Jumping?
- How Ski Jumping Started?
- Ski Jumping In The Olympics
- Significant Dates In Ski Jumping History
- How Do Ski Jumpers Get Scored In An Event?
- Ski Jumping Rules
- How To Qualify As A Ski Jumper In The Winter Olympic Games?
- Now You Know All About Ski Jumping History And Its Rules
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If you are unaware of ski jumping, your mind is about to change what is possible on a pair of skis.
These days, when you see a skier jump in a competition, they are probably doing all manner of tricks, or the jump is part of a downhill racecourse. But traditional ski jumping is a different sport altogether.
A traditional ski jumper wears an aerodynamic suit rather than baggy clothes. This outfit allows them to fly through the air further due to the reduced wind resistance.
Rather than being judged by the complexity of a trick, they get judged on how far they fly, their technique, and their landing, among other things. But we will get to the details of this later.
The ski jumper skis down a steep hill at about 60mph. Their skis are guided by channels to keep them in a straight line, so they cannot turn to slow themselves down or alter their position.
They don’t use ski poles, as they don’t need them, but the lack of poles also helps them get into an aerodynamic position to go as fast as possible towards the edge of the ramp. The ramp can be anywhere between 90 and 120 meters high.
As they get to the end of the ramp, the skier pops into the air and assumes a gliding position. Their ski bindings hinge at the toe, allowing them to tilt forwards, almost perpendicular to their skis. This position, combined with their arms extended behind them, gives them an element of lift to help them fly further.
As the skier approaches the landing, they regain an upright position and land with a telemark stance. The telemark stance sees one ski slightly in front of the other and is one of the judging criteria.
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You will see that ski jumping is a big part of the Winter Olympic Games and one of the most popular events. But it wasn’t always such a prominent winter sports discipline.
Ski jumping evolved from daredevil skiers looking for their next thrill. It’s pretty impressive to see how the sport has progressed when you realize ski jumping’s humble beginnings.
Many people believe that the first-ever ski jump was done by Norwegian Ole Rye in 1808. His jump measured a total of 9.5 meters.
This may not seem like a lot these days, especially when you see people jumping in snow parks. But you need to remember that modern alpine skiing was in its infancy. The skis were still made from wood and the boots were made from soft leather, providing little support.
In addition to this, ski jumps were not the massive structures we are used to today; they were small handmade mounds of snow.
However, Sondre Norheim is accredited as the father of modern ski jumping. This Norwegian won the first-ever ski jump contest with prizes in 1866.
The competition boosted ski jumping’s popularity throughout Norway before immigrants took it to the U.S.A. in the late 1800s.
After the first world war, skiing started to become popular again. So much so that new techniques were developed, including the Kongsberger Technique.
The Kongsberger Technique was a new ski jumping technique refined by Thulin Thams and Sigmund Ruud. The method saw the ski jumper bent at the hips, leaning forward, with their arms extended out in front of them.
The Kongsberger Technique allowed Austrian Sepp Bradl to be the first ski jumper to clear 100 meters in 1939.
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A large part of ski jumping history lies with the Winter Olympic Games. But it wasn’t until 1924 that ski jumping became an Olympic sport.
Ski jumping debuted at the winter games in Chamonix, France. There was only one ski jumping event for men on a large hill.
It may not be a surprise to you that Norwegian ski jumpers took gold, silver, and bronze medals. But, interestingly, someone realized that there was a computational error during the games, and U.S. ski jumper Anders Haugen should have won the bronze.
However, the mistake wasn’t picked up until 50 years later. So Anders Haugen was awarded his bronze medal in a special ceremony in Oslo at age 86.
Fast forward to 1964, when a much larger hill was added to the ski jumping event. The event was also divided into jumps on a normal hill and the new larger one.
The large hill measured 120 meters high, with the normal one at 90 meters. Currently, there are ski jump events for both teams and individuals, but there have been changes to the format over the years.
In 1988, the Olympic committee added the men’s large hill event. The 2022 Tokyo Games also saw the introduction of a mixed team event on the normal hill.
The women’s event on the normal hill debuted at the 2014 winter games in Sochi. This came about to attract more women to ski jumping, as there were not many competitors at the time.
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1808 – Ole Rye did the world’s first ski jump covering 9.5 meters.
1860 – The world’s first measured ski jump was built in Norway.
1892 – The first official ski jump competition took place sponsored by the Norwegian royal family. The competition was hosted in Oslo and called the “King’s Cup.”
1924 – Ski jumping was introduced as an Olympic sport in Chamonix, France.
1956 – Finnish ski jumpers Aulis Kallakorpi and Antti Hyvarinen managed to break the Norwegian winning streak by taking gold and silver at the Winter Olympics.
1974 – Anders Haugen was awarded the bronze he was supposed to have received in 1924.
2014 – The first women’s event was included in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
2022 – The Winter Olympic Games included a mixed team ski jumping event.
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Ski jumpers get scored on different elements of their jump. Their score is based on the distance they travel and their style. But their scores are also affected by their starting point on the ramp and the wind.
Judges scrutinize the different elements and the ski jumper with the highest score wins. Let’s get into the details:
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The ski jumper is awarded points regarding how far they travel between the takeoff point and their landing. However, the distance scoring isn’t as simple as you may think, as the styles of hills vary in their characteristics.
The key characteristic of a ski jump hill is the K-point. The K-point is where the landing area starts to flatten out, which is considered to be the perfect landing point for a ski jumper. It is also where the judges would expect an average ski jumper to land.
For a large ski jump hill, the K-point would usually be 120 meters from the takeoff point, and for a normal hill, the K-point is at 90 meters.
As the K-point is deemed the perfect place to land, if the ski jumper lands on it, they automatically get 60 points. But if they land after the K-point on a large hill, they will get additional 1.8 points for every meter beyond it and 2 points on a normal hill.
The ski jumper will try to fly as far as possible to get as many points as possible. The one with the most points wins the event.
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Style points are awarded by the evaluation of five judges. They look at how skillful the jumper was while traveling through the air. Each judge scores the ski jumper from 0 to 20 before eliminating the highest and lowest scores.
This means that a ski jumper can get a maximum of 60 style points for their jump.
There are a number of factors that the judges look at when it comes to the ski jumper’s style. They will pay close attention to see if the ski jumper is in total control throughout their jump and using an effective technique.
The judges will watch to see if the jumper’s flight was smooth or wobbly through the air. They will also scrutinize the position of the jumper’s skis to see if they are straight and not flaring outwards.
Another characteristic the judges look for in a ski jump is the jumper’s power and boldness. A powerful jump indicates that the jumper is confident in their ability, demonstrating prowess.
The final element of style that ski jump judges look for is the landing and their outrun. The outrun is when the jumper gradually slows down and controls their momentum after they have landed.
Judges will also watch closely for the telemark stance. So the jumper has to land and ski away with bent knees and one ski leading the other.
After the ski jumper has landed in the telemark stance, they must maintain control past the green line. The green line marks the end of the jump, so even if the ski jumper falls beyond it, they will not lose any style points.
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Due to the nature of ski jumping, external factors can affect the ski jumper’s event. Therefore, judges can add and subtract points based on wind speed and direction to make the event as fair as possible.
If a ski jumper jumps under favorable wind conditions, the judges will remove points from them to make it fair to jumpers who did not get the advantage. Likewise, if someone was to jump in unfavorable wind conditions, they may have points added. These adjustments are to create a level playing field for all competitors.
Sometimes judges will decide to move the starting gate higher or lower on the takeoff ramp. The idea is to allow the jumper to achieve the optimum takeoff speed, but they will subtract or add points to make the event fair.
If the judges decide that the starting gate needs to be higher up the hill, they will take points away from the jumper. This is because they will ski faster down the ramp, which should allow them to fly further.
But if the ski jumper needs to start their jump lower down the ramp, the judges will add extra points to their jump. The ski jumper doesn’t pick up as much speed when the gate is lower, and the shorter run-in makes the jump more challenging.
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Now you know about the scoring involved with ski jumping, it is worth going into the other rules associated with the sport. The rules are in place to ensure that ski jumping is as safe as it can be and are implemented at all levels, whether you are an amateur or an Olympian.
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There are three main ski jumping disciplines, and each one depends on the number of participants and the size of the jump.
In the Winter Olympic Games, there are three men’s events – the individual event on the normal hill, the individual on the large hill, and a team event on the large hill.
As we mentioned earlier, there is only one Olympic ski jumping event for women, the individual event on the normal hill. There is also a mixed Olympic team event for men and women on the normal hill.
There is no weight limit for competitive ski jumping; however, there are some rules in place that aim to keep the event as fair as possible.
For example, a lighter ski jumper should be able to fly further through the air. Therefore, they have to jump with shorter skis to reduce their aerodynamic lift.
Ski jumpers prefer to use longer skis, as they allow them to jump further. So ski jumping officials have put a cap on the maximum length of ski jumping skis. The skis cannot exceed 146% of the ski jumper’s height.
In addition to this, the skier has to have a body mass index of at least 18.5 with no equipment and 20 with it. This rule was introduced to prevent an unfair advantage for lighter ski jumpers.
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We have already mentioned the K-point, but the ski jump hill is divided into a few other sections and gradients. The top of the hill is made up of the starting point, the in-run, and the takeoff point.
These sections are where the ski jumper sets off and builds up speed while approaching the takeoff before flying through the air.
The first section of the landing hill is known as the knoll, which connects to the P-point. The P-point is the line that indicates the end of the knoll and the beginning of the landing area.
The P-point is the steepest part of the landing area too, and it turns into the K-point, where the landing hill starts to become flatter.
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Ski jumping rules also regulate the equipment that ski jumpers use. This is to ensure safety and fairness in the events.
Just like regular skis, ski jumpers’ skis are attached to their boots with bindings. But the equipment regulations say that the bindings need to be perfectly pointing forwards.
The bindings also need to attach the boots in the center section of the skis. There should be no less than 57% of the ski in front of the binding and only the toe of the boot is allowed to be attached, allowing for the correct posture in the air and the telemark landing.
However, the skis must be attached to the jumper’s ski boots with leashes to prevent them from flying off in a crash or in the air.
The ski jumper’s suit isn’t the same as a ski racer’s skin-tight suit. It has to be at a regulation thickness and within the guidelines regarding its permeability to the air.
As you can imagine, throwing yourself off a massive ramp at 60 mph comes with its dangers. Therefore, there are strict ski jump safety rules in place for all competitors.
Ski jumpers are required to wear a helmet and stick to the equipment regulations stated above.
The event judges adjust the starting point not just for fairness but for safety too. The starting point is often lowered to stop the ski jumpers from overjumping.
If a ski jumper overjumps, they can land on the flat part of the landing area. If they land too hard on the flat, they can crash badly, causing severe injury.
Over the years, ski jump hills have been redesigned with safety in mind. The ski jump hills are now more contoured, so the ski jumper is no more than 4.5 meters off the ground throughout their jump, even though it looks much higher.
If a ski jumper does not meet the BMI requirements, they will need to wear shorter skis, affecting the distance they can travel. This rule was put in place to prevent ski jumpers from going on unhealthy diets to gain a competitive weight advantage.
One of the other rules that ski jumpers can be penalized for is suit violations. The skier’s suit needs to be within a two-centimeter margin of their body measurements.
If the suit is too large, the ski jumper can get extra lift from the air trapped under it, acting like a wing. If a ski jumper is found to not meet the suit requirements, they can be disqualified from the competition.
If you want to enter the Winter Olympic Games as a ski jumper, you must get onto the Olympic Quota Allocation List. The list is built using the results of the FIS World Cup and the Summer Grand Prix from the previous two seasons.
When no ski jumpers are left on the list, the Olympic Committee uses the Continental Cup standing from the previous two seasons.
To make the Olympic Quota Allocation list, you need to qualify as one of the top 65 male ski jump athletes or in the top 40 female ski jumpers. But each country competing at the Winter Olympic Games can only enter a maximum of five male and four female athletes in each event.
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Ski jumping is an awe-inspiring sport steeped in history. Since those early days, it has come a long way, just as the techniques, equipment, and training practices have all evolved.
Ski jumping is very popular in the winter sports community, especially in Scandinavian countries. If you have never seen a ski jump competition, it is well worth watching. These events are impressive on the TV but even more exciting in real life.
The sport may be very dangerous thanks to the speed and height gained by the competitors. But it is much safer than it used to be with the changes in the design of the jumps and the strict rules implemented.