Olympic Ski Jumping Normal Hill Qualifying 2014 Schedule and Predictions

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIFebruary 8, 2014

Austria's Gregor  Schlierenzauer makes an attempt in the men's normal hill ski jumping training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

For the first time in Olympic history, men and women will compete in ski jumping. That move makes history before anyone has even taken to the slopes.

If that's not enough to make you watch, perhaps the opportunity to watch someone begin their effort to challenge 2010 bronze medallist Gregor Schlierenzauer will be.

Since 2010, Schlierenzauer has established himself as the man to beat in normal hill ski-jumping events. He took the 2013 World Cup at RusSki Gorki Jumping Center; it's the same venue where the Sochi events will be held. 

Schlierenzauer is one of 10 men who have pre-qualified. The rest of the field will be jumping for their right to compete in the final.

The female equivalent of Schlierenzauer is Japan’s Sara Takanashi. At just 17 years old, Takanashi has already asserted herself as the top female ski jumper in the world this season.

Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

She won the 2013 World Cup and has won six of the seven events she's competed.

The United States' Sarah Hendrickson is the best American hope for a medalor a challenger to Takanashi. She beat her at the 2013 World Championships, but besting her at the Olympics will be a different story.

Carlo Allegri/Associated Press

Questions about Hendrickson's health are as big of a concern as Takanashi. Bleacher Report's Chad Dundas writes:

[Hendrickson] is considered the primary threat to Takanashi’s hopes for gold, though the biggest question mark surrounding her will be her health.

She 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.

Despite the odds, Hendrickson seems to be up for the challenge. She told Michael Lewis of The Salt Lake Tribune:

I’m kind of the underdog now. Where I was reigning world champion, now people have no idea what to expect.

My knee is still five months out of surgery, and I knew it would react a little bit to the stress of training again. But it’s actually done pretty well. I’m confident in what I’ve done with it, and I’m confident in what I can do here in Sochi.

Overcoming physical setbacks and a talented, young favorite will be a tall task.

Here's a look at the schedule for the men's and women's events.

2014 Winter Olympic Ski Jumping Schedule:

Feb. 8: Men's individual normal hill qualification, 11:30 a.m. ET

Feb. 9: Men's individual normal hill final, 12:30 p.m. ET

Feb. 11: Women's individual normal hill, 12:30 p.m. ET

Look here for TV listings and here for live stream information.

Predictions

Men's Gold Medal

Schlierenzauer has a significant advantage having had success at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center. At 24 years old, he has an opportunity to dominate in Sochi and in the 2018 Games.

Look for him to take the gold medal on Sunday.

Women's Gold Medal

Takanashi is the pick here, but Hendrickson will really push her to excel. Even if Takanashi doesn't win gold, she could feasibly compete in two more Olympic games.

The future is bright for her, and her Olympic glory will begin on Tuesday with the first Olympic gold medal by a female ski jumper.

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