Jessica Jerome jumps to a first place finish during the United States Women's Ski Jumping Olympic Trials at Utah Olympic Park on Dec. 29, 2013 in Park City, Utah. Jerome earns a spot on the Olympic team for Sochi 2014 with her win.
The sport of ski jumping will make a giant leap this year in Sochi as this winter will mark the debut of women competing in the sport in the Olympic Winter Games. Women tried, unsuccessfully, to compete in Vancouver in 2010. The first ski jumping event was held in 1862 in Norway and the sport is one of the oldest in the Olympic Winter Games. Ski jumping was included in the first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix, France, in 1924. Athletes only competed on the large hill until 1964, when the normal hill event was introduced. The team event made its debut in 1988.
AN OLYMPIC FIRST: THE WOMEN JUMP
U.S. women ski jumpers jumped for joy in April 2011, when the International Olympic Committee approved their sport to make its debut at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Several assembled at the home of former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini, a supporter of women’s ski jumping, for the IOC announcement nearly three years ago. On Feb. 11 at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center, all the hard work to get women’s ski jumping into the Olympic Winter Games will pay off with the first Olympic ski jumping competition for women. Three U.S. women’s ski jumpers, a group led by 13-time national champion and 2009 world champion Lindsey Van, will compete in the historic debut. “I’ve dedicated my life, hopes and dreams to ski jumping,” Van said after the IOC announcement in 2011. The women will compete in normal hill jumping in Sochi, although they also compete in large hill jumping outside of the Winter Games. Joining Van as women’s ski jumpers on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team are Sarah Hendrickson and Jessica Jerome.
WOMEN’S MEDAL CONTENDERS
Hoping to step right up to the medals podium in the women’s ski jumping Olympic debut are 2014 U.S. Olympic Team members Lindsey Van, Jessica Jerome and Sarah Hendrickson. Van has won eight national championships on the normal hill and won the gold medal at the 2009 world championships. Hendrickson won the 2013 world championship and was world cup overall champion in 2012-13 season. Jerome was the first to clinch an Olympic nomination when she won the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Nordic Combined & Ski Jumping in December in Park City, Utah. “We, for the last two years, have been the best team in the world. We continue to motivate and push each other every day,” Jerome told NBC at the Trials.
While the U.S. women hope to medal at their inaugural inclusion in the Winter Games, four U.S. men hope to end a medal drought that is now in its ninth decade. The United States has medaled just once in Olympic ski jumping: in 1924 at the first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix, France. Three of the four U.S. Olympic Team members have previous Olympic experience, and the fourth, Nick Fairall, won the trials in December. Anders Johnson, will be competing in his third Winter Games, placed 14th on the large hill at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games when he was just 16. Nick Alexander and Peter Frenette, the other two U.S. athletes, tied for 41st place on the normal hill at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
HENDRICKSON’S ROAD BACK
Sarah Hendrickson, who won the women’s world championship in 2013, has battled back into shape for the 2014 Winter Games after a training crash this past August resulted in a serious knee injury. After undergoing a surgical procedure for ACL reconstruction, MCL and meniscal repair on Aug. 29, she rehabbed for up to eight hours a day at the U.S. Ski Team Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah. She returned to training on the 90-meter hill at Utah Olympic Park in Park City in January. “The feeling of that first jump back was one of the best sensations in the entire world,” she said. On Jan. 21, she was nominated to the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team.
SAVING A LIFE
U.S. women’s ski jumper Lindsey Van believes that her greatest life accomplishment was donating bone marrow in 2011 to a person suffering from leukemia in San Francisco. She had never met the 41-year-old man. The procedure involves five days of injections, and Van did it right after the 2011 world championships. “I definitely reflected on it a little bit, saving somebody’s life, but the thought about doing it was very easy for me to make,” she told The Denver Post.
DATES TO REMEMBER
Six days of ski jumping begin Feb. 8, the day after the Opening Ceremony. The first day of jumping will be the men’s qualification round on the normal hill, followed by the medal round Feb. 9. History will be made Feb. 11, when women’s ski jumping on the normal hill makes its Olympic debut. The competition wraps up with the men’s large hill event Feb. 14 and 15, followed by the men’s team event Feb. 17. The women do not compete on the large hill or in a team event.
For the first time in Olympic history, four sets of medals will be handed out in ski jumping at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games for a total of 12 medals. There are three individual events: men’s normal hill and large hill, and women’s normal hill. The men’s team competition on Feb. 17 is the final medal event. The United States is looking for its first medal in ski jumping since 1924 in Chamonix, France, when Anders Haugen earned the bronze medal in the first Olympic ski jumping competition.
Ski jumping will be held at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center, which is a part of the Sochi Mountain Cluster venues in the Krasnaya Polyana resort area. RusSki Gorki is located on the northern slope of the Aibga Ridge, an area picked by Sochi Olympic Games organizers because it is harmonious with the surrounding landscape and also it will protect athletes from side winds. The venue can accommodate up to 7,500 spectators. It will also be the venue for the men’s Nordic combined competition. After the Winter Games, the facility will be used by Russia as a national training center.
NORMAL HILL, LARGE HILL
The men will jump from an HS 105 hill and HS 140 hill in separate individual competitions. What do those numbers mean? On an HS 105 hill, or a normal hill, jumpers will reach about 105 meters in their distance. On an HS 140 hill, or a large hill, jumpers will reach 140 meters or even a bit farther than that. The women will jump from the HS 105 normal hill. The men’s team competition will be held on the large hill.
SCORING AT THE K POINT
The K Point is the distance from the takeoff that is equivalent to the height of the hill. The hill sizes in Sochi are 105 meters (normal hill) and 140 meters (large hill). Reaching the K Point results in 60 points. If an athlete does not reach the K Point, then points are deducted. If an athlete goes beyond the K Point, then points are added. Every meter results in a change of two points on a normal hill and 1.8 points on the large hill. Ski jumpers are also judged on style by five judges, earning up to 20 points. The high and low scores are thrown out. In each Olympic competition, the top athletes from the first run get a second run. The scores from each run are added to determine the medalists.
JUMPING FOR THE TEAM
The men’s team competition takes place on the large hill. Each team consists of four jumpers. After the first round, the top eight teams advance to the final round. The winners are determined through the final score for all four jumpers on a team. The defending team champion is Austria. The United States has never medaled.
50-YEAR WAIT FOR A MEDAL
Anders Haugen is the only American to medal at the Olympic Winter Games in ski jumping. And even in his case, it took 50 years. Haugen was credited with a fourth-place finish at the Chamonix 1924 Winter Olympic Games. Fifty years later, a Norwegian historian noticed that the score given to Thorleif Haug of Norway was incorrect. Instead of 18.000, Haug’s final score was actually 17.821. Haugen had finished with a score of 17.916. On Sept. 12. 1974, in Oslo, Norway, Haugen, then 86 years old, was awarded the bronze medal by Haug’s daughter. A four-time national champion, Haugen died at age 95 in 1984. He was a two-time Olympian, competing also in cross-country skiing and Nordic combined.
HOW LONG CAN THOSE SKIS BE?
The length of the skis in jumping are restricted by the height of the individual ski jumper. The skis may be no longer than 146 percent of the height of an athlete. So, if a ski jumper is 6 feet tall (1.83 meters), the skis may be 2.67 meters, or about 8 feet, 9 inches.
V FOR VICTORY
When a ski jumper is in the air, you will see the athlete form a V with his/her skis. The technique was used by Sweden’s Jan Boklöv in 1985. Initially, he was ridiculed for using the form, but by 1992 virtually all of the Olympic ski jumpers were copying his style. By forming a V with the tips of his or her skis, a jumper achieves efficiency in aerodynamics.
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Paul D. Bowker is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org.