Olympic Ski Jumping 2014: Complete Guide for Sochi Winter Olympics
Ski jumpers have already made history in Sochi. That's because for the first time in 90 years of Winter Olympic competition, women will compete in the ski jump.
The move marks the end of a decade-long struggle by female athletes to join their mail counterparts in the games' highest-flying event. This year, women will compete in a single normal hill event, while men will jump in normal and large hill events.
Oddly, not everyone has applauded the move.
Russia's men's ski jumping coach Alexander Arefyev added to his country's ongoing public relations struggles recently, saying he was no fan of female ski jumping. Arefyev told Russian newspaper Izvestia that a woman's purpose is "to have children, do housework, to create a family home," via NBC Sports.
In any case, the rest of the world will be watching. Here's a complete rundown of what to expect from ski jumping at the 2014 Winter Olympics...
The addition of women isn't the only change for ski jumping at the 2014 Olympics.
For the first time, new rules will also attempt to compensate for windy conditions. If an athlete jumps in wind deemed to be advantageous, his or her score may be adjusted accordingly.
In addition, guidelines restrict the athletes' allowable weight and the kinds of equipment they can use, including ski size and the material of their suits.
Events will be held at new RusSki Gorki Jumping Center in the village of Esto-Sadok. Construction of the new facility was not without controversy, as the project lagged behind schedule. With the games on deck, however, officials say all is well.
On the men's side, the jumpers will take part three events—normal hill, large hill and team competition. For women, their inaugural Olympic appearance will include only a normal hill competition.
During the individual events, each athlete makes two jumps, which are scored for distance and style. Competitors must land using the Telemark style—one foot slightly in front of the other—and the jumper who receives the most points is declared the winner.
For the team competition, the four team members representing each nation jump once during the qualifying round. The top eight countries advance to the final round, and each of their members makes one more jump. The gold medal will go to the team with the highest combined score.
Humans have been donning skis and launching themselves off high places since at least the early 1800s, and the first formal ski jumping competition was believed to have been held in Norway in 1866.
The sport was included as part of the first Winter Olympics in 1924, where a single men's large hill event comprised the entire competition. In 1964, the men's normal hill competition joined the games and in 1988, the large hill team event was added as well.
Today, the length of the large hill is standardized at 90 meters and the normal hill at 70 meters.
The term "calculation point" is often used to refer to a point marked on every hill that skiers try to reach with their jumps. On the large hill it is measured at 120 meters, so large hill events are sometimes referred to as K120 events. Normal hill events are sometimes called K90 events, denoting a calculation point of 90 meters.
The traditional powers of Olympic ski jumping are Finland, Norway and Austria, dominating the sport so thoroughly that the three countries' combined medal count (74) dwarfs that of the rest of the world (49). Norway leads the charge with 29 medals, though Finland's 10 golds are the most by any single country.
In April, 2011, the IOC officially added women's ski jumping to the Winter Games, marking the first time women have been allowed to compete in this Olympic sport.
Schedule, TV and Live Stream Info
2014 Winter Olympic Ski Jumping Schedule:
February 8: Men's individual normal hill qualification, 11:30 a.m. ET
February 9: Men's individual normal hill final, 12:30 p.m. ET
February 11: Women's individual normal hill, 12:30 p.m. ET
February 14: Men's individual large hill qualification, 12:30 p.m. ET
February 15: Men's individual large hill final, 12:30 ET
February 17: Men's team large hill competition, 12:15 ET
Athletes to Watch
Nick Fairall, United States: Fairall was the top qualifier for an American team, but he is not expected to medal in men's ski jumping. The 24-year-old New Hampshire native won his first national title in 2013. Also on Team USA are Nick Alexander, Peter Frenette and Anders Johnson.
Simon Ammann, Switzerland: Ammann has four individual gold medals to his credit after winning the men's large hill and normal hill competitions in 2002 and 2010. At 32 years old, he's likely competing in his final Olympics after amassing more than 20 World Cup event victories during a career spanning nearly two decades.
Gregor Schlierenzauer, Austria: A winner of three medals in Vancouver, Schlierenzauer is among the favorites for 2014 gold. He marked his second career World Cup championship in 2013 and hopes to win individual honors as well as lead a talented Austrian team back to the medal stand in the team competition.
Peter Prevc, Slovenia: The 21-year-old Prevc finished second in large hill and third in normal hill events at the 2013 FIS World Championships. He'll have a chance to equal or better those performances as one of the favorites in both events in Sochi.
Kamil Stoch, Poland: The reigning world champion in large hill, Stoch led Poland to a third-place team finish at the World Championships last year. The 26-year-old will be competing in his third Olympics and is in the hunt for his first individual medal.
Sarah Hendrickson, United States: The 19-year-old from Salt Lake City is considered Team USA's best chance for gold in the women's competition, despite suffering a serious knee injury in August. She won gold at the 2013 FIS world championships, but after surgery, only returned to jumping in late January.
Lindsey Van, United States: The pioneer of the U.S. team, Van won gold the first women's ski jumping World Championships in 2009. Considered one of the driving forces behind women's ski jumping's eventual acceptance by the Olympics, Van finished eighth on the 2013 World Cup tour.
Jessica Jerome, United States: Another longtime veteran of international competition, Jerome became the first woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in ski jumping in December. She is a three-time national champion.
Sara Takanashi, Japan: Standing just 4'11", Takanashi is one of the most dominant athletes at the entire Sochi games. The 17-year-old laid waste to the competition during the latest World Cup season, winning eight of the nine events she entered. If she doesn't find the top of the podium, it'll be a huge upset.
Women's Normal Hill
Overview: As longtime advocates are quick to point out, ski jumping is one of the few events where there is very little disparity in the performance of male and female athletes.
That’s because one key factor in ski jumping is weight. At the risk of over simplifying: The lighter the jumper, the farther they go.
In Sochi, women will jump from the same 70-meter hill as the men in the women’s normal hill competition. Their distances and style scores will be comparable as well. Each athlete will get two jumps from the normal hill, and the jumper with the highest combined score will be declared the winner.
Key Storylines: Japan’s Sara Takanashi is the runaway favorite. At the 2013 FIS World Championships in Norway, her score of 286 bested the nearest female competitor by 16 points. It also would’ve been good enough to give Takanashi the silver medal in the men’s division.
She finished just 2.5 points behind men’s winner Gregor Schlierenzauer.
Sarah Hendrickson will have the best chance of any American to medal in ski jumping. She’s considered the primary threat to Takanashi’s hopes for gold, though the biggest question mark surrounding her will be her health.
Hendrickson tore the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus in her right knee during a crash in Germany last summer. She’s only been back on the hill since January.
Germany's Carina Vogt could be close on her heels, and if Hendrickson isn't 100 percent, Vogt could pick up the silver.
Men's Normal Hill
Overview: The Men’s normal hill competition will be very similar to the women’s event. Jumpers will use the 70-meter hill and be judged for distance as well as form. The top scorers from Feb. 8’s qualification round will move on to the final, held the following day.
It should be noted that despite some confusing nomenclature, the men’s normal hill event is actually the younger of the two individual ski jumping competitions. It was added in 1964, as an addition to the pre-existing large hill event.
Key Storylines: Compared with the women's event, the men's ski jumping competition will be a wide-open affair. No fewer than 10 athletes have a chance to make the final podium.
The same threesome of jumpers collected all medals for both men’s competitions in 2010—Switzerland’s Simon Ammann (gold), Poland's Adam Małysz (silver) and Austria's Gregor Schlierenzauer (bronze).
Both Ammann and Schlierenzauer are back in 2014 and remain among the favorites. Malysz retired in 2011 and is now professional rally car racer.
Slovenia's Peter Prevc and Kamil Stoch of Poland also each have a good chance to medal in both events.
Men's Large Hill
Overview: The large hill competition is contested on the 90-meter hill. Like the normal hill event, each athlete gets two jumps per round, and the man will the highest combined score will get the gold. The qualification round is scheduled for Feb. 14, with the final round going down the next day.
The men’s team competition also takes place on the large hill. During the team competition there are two rounds of jumping, with all four members of a nation's jumping team participating. After the preliminary round, the top eight teams advance to the final. The team with the highest combined score wins.
The team competition is Feb. 17.
Key Storylines: Just as in the normal hill competition, the men’s race will be competitive. Simon Ammann of Switzerland and Austria's Gregor Schlierenzauer are again expected to be in the mix, along with Slovenia's Peter Prevc and Poland's Kamil Stoch.
Slovenia is regarded as the squad to beat in the team competition. Led by Prevc, the country has established some momentum with strong performances at competitions in the weeks leading up to the Games.
Slovenia's stiffest competition will likely come from Poland, Germany and Austria.
Team USA Outlook
Ski jumping is not expected to be a standout event for Team USA at the Sochi Games, as European nations will look to continue their dominance.
Sarah Hendrickson is regarded as the class of the American squad. She has a chance to push Japan's Sara Takanashi in the race to win the first-ever gold medal in women's ski jumping.
If Takanashi is the prevailing favorite to win the gold, then Hendrickson may be just as a big a lock for the silver. That is, provided she is fully recovered from a serious knee injury suffered last August.
Lindsey Van will fulfill a lifelong dream to compete in the Olympics after nearly a decade working to get women invited to the Games. In 2010, she joined other female ski jumpers in filing a lawsuit against the organizers of the Vancouver Games, alleging discrimination because they weren't allowed to compete.
The IOC voted to adopt women's ski jumping for the next Olympics.
Hendrickson and Van are joined by Jessica Jerome on Team USA.
On the men's side, the United States is not expected to vie for a medal in the individual or team competition. Nonetheless, Team USA is led by Nick Fairall, who is the reigning national ski jumping champion.
Gold: Simon Ammann, Switzerland
Silver: Gregor Schlierenzauer, Austria
Bronze: Peter Prevc, Slovenia
Gold: Peter Prevc, Slovenia
Silver: Simon Ammann, Switzerland
Bronze: Gregor Schlierenzauer, Austria
Gold: Sara Takanashi, Japan
Silver: Carina Vogt, Germany
Bronze: Sarah Hendrickson, United States