Pyeongchang 2018

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Flying in style – five reasons to follow ski jumping in PyeongChang

COURCHEVEL, FRANCE - AUGUST 11: Sara Takanashi of Japan takes 2nd place during the Women's HS 96 at the FIS Grand Prix Ski Jumping on August 11, 2017 in Courchevel, France. (Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

The supermen and women of the Winter Games soar mind-blowing distances at alarming speeds. It makes ski jumping one of the must-watch Olympic events.

1. Kraft works his magic

The fact they are effectively flying is arguably a sufficient sales pitch in its own right. Last season, Stefan Kraft set a world record for travelling 235.5 metres in one jump, an astonishing, gravity-defying feat. The current World Cup champion, he will be among the favourites for gold come Games time at PyeongChang 2018. It’s even more impressive given Kraft and company hit speeds of around 60mph during flight.

2. Style in the air

As if that wasn’t enough, ski jumpers aren’t just marked on the distance they travel flying through the sky. Points are also awarded for style in take-off, through the air and on landing, adding a further complexity to the sport. Points are awarded for the distance measured but also five judges award up to 20 points per jump for style. The person with the greater number of points over two jumps is the winner.

3. The danger element

When travelling at such speed, up to such a height and over such a distance, one can’t help but both revel in and admire the risks the ski jumpers are taking. Among the medal hopes in the Republic Of Korea will be Andreas Wellinger. The German suffered a horror crash in take-off at the end of 2014, his skis going awry almost immediately. The resultant injuries forced him to miss the rest of the season, but he is back for PyeongChang 2018 and aiming to add to his team gold from Sochi 2014.

4. ‘Flying like a bird’

These Games will be an opportunity to see the greatest female ski jumper of all time, Sara Takanashi. She finished fourth at Sochi 2014 at the age of 17 but has gone on to dominate the discipline ever since. A budding pianist and ballet dancer growing up, she was introduced to ski jumping by her father and brother and has been hooked ever since. “I enjoyed flying like a bird,” she explained. A schoolgirl four years ago, she looks infinitely better placed to take the gold on her second Olympic appearance.

5. ‘Stochomania’

In the men’s event, Kamil Stoch arrives in PyeongChang as the defending champion having won both individual titles for Poland four years ago. Stoch learned to ski at the age of three and took to ski jumping aged nine. In Poland, ‘Stochomania’ is a very real phenomenon, the 30-year-old mobbed whenever he goes. He met his wife at a sporting academy where she was studying ju-jitsu.

 

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