Winter sports introductions – Day 4

6 February 2014

Ski jumping was developed in the late nineteenth century in Norway with the aim of the discipline being to jump as far as possible and then to ski down a hill-slope. The skiers use long, wide skis during this event. Various jumping techniques are used by the skiers to travel longer distances than other competitors. Generally ski jumping is held on natural snow. However, the event can also be staged on artificial surfaces.

It was included in the Olympic schedule at the 1924 Chamonix Winter Games with the Men’s individual large hill being the only event contested at the 1924 Games. Women’s ski-jumping was allowed for the first time at the 2009 World Ski Championships, although a proposal for it to be a part of the 2010 Olympics was rejected by the International Olympic Committee on the grounds of a perceived lack of competition. It was finally granted approval to be part of the 2014 programme.

Four events will make up this year’s Olympic program: the men’s and women’s individual normal hill competition, the men’s individual large hill competition, and the men’s team competition.

The individual normal hill competition is an event in which athletes jump from a HS 105 hill (HS = Hill Size). The longest distance reached is around 105 metres. Athletes make two jumps. Only the athletes with the best results in the first jump make the second jump. The athlete with the highest total score is the winner.

The individual large hill competition is an event in which athletes jump from a HS 140. Therefore, the length of the jump may be up to 140 metres or a little more. The competition is structured and winners selected the same way as in the normal hill event.

The team competition takes place on the large hill, the HS 140. Teams consist of four people. In the final round, the field is reduced to the eight teams with the highest scores on the first jump. The team with the highest total score for all jumps is the winner.

Not only will this year see the inaugural women’s competition but a competitor who is best known as a star violinist. She will be only the second person ever to ski for her country. Most people will know the name – Vanessa-Mae. She shot to fame as a child, playing concerts at the age of 10. She was even nicknamed Teeny Paganini.

But her other love has always been skiing and this year, she will be competing in the Winter Olympics. She is not quite good enough for the British team so she will be representing Thailand. This is no joke….

In 1990, the International Olympic Committee brought in what became known as the Eddie the Eagle Rule to stop people of low ability competing. In 1988 Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards, was so desperate to compete at the Winter Olympics he took up ski jumping. He was not very good but he was the best in the UK! So he persuaded the GB team to take him. His lack of skill earned him sympathy but made a mockery of the Olympics.

Today, Olympic hopefuls must either be ranked in the world’s top 500, or must prove themselves at international qualifying events. Vanessa-Mae has taken a year off music to focus on her skiing. She spent a weekend in January skiing competing in qualifying races in Slovenia to earn her place at the Games which start this coming weekend in Sochi, Russia.

Maybe it’s not too late for me to be an Olympic athlete after all?

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