Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

What to Know About Ski Jumping at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

Ski jumping is a competitive, high-flying sport. Here is a look at the history, rules, and more about the sport at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Ski Jumping at the Winter Olympics, a death-defying display of aerial ability and fearlessness, is set to start on Feb 5. Considered one of the most dangerous winter sports, the event has a wide following due to its long history. The event was first included in the Olympic Games in 1924 in France. 

Ski jumpers often start the competition on a steep scaffold or tower, which they use to gain speed during the approach to the jump, sometimes hitting a top speed of over 60 miles per hour. Then, competitors fly off the jump, using their body position to increase air time and total distance covered. The technique used for the body position of athletes in the air has evolved over time, with most competitors now adhering to the “V style,” in which skiers point the tips of their skis outward and upward, creating a V shape. 

What are the different ski jumping events?

Ski jumping is split into two distinct events, “normal hill” and “big hill” jumps. Both events work in similar ways, the main difference being the size of the slopes and jumps. In the normal hill event, competitors fly off a 90 meter (295 feet) jump, while the big hill event sees competitors jump off a 120 meter (393 feet) slope. 

The size of these hills can vary competition-to-competition, and are usually decided by the “K-point.” The K-point indicates the landing zone that is safest for athletes to land in, and is generally judged at where the landing slope starts to flatten out from its 35-degree angle. The wind is also factored in, as competitors can gain more air and distance from optimal wind speeds. If the wind speeds are deemed too high, judges can halt the competition.

While men and women compete in both events in international competitions, the Olympics has yet to catch up, and only men will compete for the big hill medals. Ski jumping also includes team events, one for teams of men and the other for mixed teams of men and women.

Is Team USA good at ski jumping?

Despite becoming one of the dominant forces at the Winter Olympics, Team USA has only captured one Olympic medal - - a bronze, won by Anders Haugen in 1924. Historically, Norway has filled the medal podiums, but in recent years countries like Poland and Japan also compete. 

Unfortunately for Team USA, the women’s team failed to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics. In addition, the men’s team also failed to qualify, leaving Kevin Bickner as the sole competitor from the United States. This will be Bickner’s second Olympic games as he hopes to capture Team USA’s second ever medal in the event. 

What is the history of ski jumping? 

Ski jumping is historic in the realm of winter sports, with its origins traced back to the early 19th century. The name most associated with its beginnings is Olaf Rye, a Norwegian-Danish military official who jumped 9.5 meters in 1808 in the first recorded ski jump. From there, another Norwegian by the name of Sondre Norheim took up the reins of the sport, winning the first ski jumping competition in 1866. 

From there, the sport evolved and gained in popularity as different skiers from around the world tried to ski faster and jump higher. In 1936, Austrian Sepp Bradl was the first ski jumper to clear 100 meters, jumping 101 meters. 

The biggest progression in modern ski jumping was made in the 1980s when the V-style of jumping made its first waves in the community. Originally shunned by the community and judges alike, the technique was soon discovered to produce height and speed, and is now generally the only technique used by Olympic ski jumpers.

Who is the best ski jumper ever?

While Norway may be considered the home of ski jumping, the title of the world’s best ever ski jumper is held by Matti Nykänen of Finland. Nykänen won four Olympic gold medals and five World Championship gold medals. Notably, Nykänen won three gold medals at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games. 

The big name headed into the 2022 Games is Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi, who recently won the Four Hills Tournament, which is considered the biggest annual event in ski jumping. Still other competitors will be close behind, including Norway’s Halvor Egner Granerud and Karl Geiger of Germany. 

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