A layman’s look at ski jumping

Are these guys insane? Leaping at high speed from two daunting, hills with just a pair of skis to save them?

Daredevil competitors at Whistler Olympic Park will launch themselves down the “in-run” slope of the large hill (120m) and normal hill (90m), reaching speeds of up to 130kmh (95 miles per hour).

Definitely a sport for speed freaks, and you don’t even have to be sufferer of vertigo to get a queasy stomach at the view from the top of the large hill.

Is it all in the distance? Do they get points for style, even survival?

Once airborne, jumpers must adjust their bodies into a V-shape to gain as much height as they can, restricting drag to a minimum as they strain for the longest leap. A perfectly-timed take off is crucial and you get points for style as well as distance.

A classic telemark landing wins style brownie points, but that position is hard to perfect if you have gone for maximum distance.

No points for surviving – landing safely is a given.

What’s the history and how can I impress my friends with ski jumping buzzwords?

The sport has been around for 200 years. Norwegian soldier Olaf Rye first tried out the idea in 1809 and by the mid-1800s there were international competitions.

The V-style came in as recently as 25 years ago, patented by Swede Jan Boklöv. Prior to that jumpers had held their skis parallel.

The scientifically-inclined soon cottoned on to the Boklöv version after calculating that his V-style gave around 30-percent more lift.

If you hear the term K-Point, that’s the distance from the takeoff which equals the height of the hill and the point from which judges calculate the distance points to be awarded.

It’s a men-only event. That’s hardly in line with the International Olympic Committee’s desire for equality and inclusiveness.

Women had hoped to compete this time round but a Canadian court last year, while noting discrimination, referred the Games issue to the IOC which had ruled out a female event in Turin in 2006. The court ruled that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms did not apply.

However, US world champion Lindsey Van can at least boast the longest recorded jump at the Whistler venue.

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