Even a former Olympian who competes in ski jumping and is paid to analyze the sport on TV has no idea who will win the gold medal at the Beijing Games.
That’s because more than a dozen men get shot.
However, the list of contenders may be less than one.
Three-time Olympic champion Kamil Stoch is ruled out of this week’s World Cup competition in his native Poland with a left leg injury that threatens his chances of competing in the Olympics next month. .
Stoch won the big hill at the 2018 Olympics, elevating his status as a superstar in a country obsessed with ski jumping. He rose to fame at the 2014 Sochi Games, when he won big and normal hills.
If Stoch can’t compete in China, there are plenty of contenders ready to try and take one or both of his titles.
Ryoyu Kobayashi of Japan is the top ski jumper in the world, followed by Karl Geiger of Germany. Some talented and experienced Norwegians – including three-time Olympic medalist Robert Johansson – are also expected to take part in the wide-open competition.
“Ski jumping is a sport you’ve done for me lately and it could all heat up at the Olympics,” said NBC analyst Johnny Spillane, a three-time Nordic United Olympian. “It’s not uncommon to have a surprise winner.”
The ski jumping will be held in the mountainous Zhangjiakou competition area, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Beijing.
The men will compete individually on 6 February on the normal hill and on 12 February on the large hill.
The women will compete for gold in the individual event on 5 February and for the first time ever, they will be part of the mixed team event with the men on 7 February.
Ski jumpers have competed in the Olympics since the first Winter Games in 1924.
With technological advances in suits and skis, intrepid athletes reach 60 mph (about 100 kph) before jumping themselves up and down the length of an American football field and end zones.
Ski jumpers lean forward in flight, almost parallel to their skis which form a V to take advantage of aerodynamics. They earn points for distance as well as style, which is judged by five judges with low and high scores.
Maran Lundby chose not to defend her Olympic gold in women’s ski jumping, saying she didn’t want to make the sacrifices necessary to fight her body’s natural changes and compete at the top level in Beijing.
The sport has attempted to address the eating disorders that have historically been a problem, with changes to the rules designed to harm it by losing too much weight. The laws of physics give an advantage to light jumpers, and some are willing to take extreme measures in order to be thin in order to win.
“It was a big issue in the past, but it will always be part of the conversation,” Spillane said. “Lundby is brilliant and I’m sorry she is calling off the Olympics.”
Austria’s Marita Kramer has been dominating the World Cup circuit, with victories in November and December after finishing first in three consecutive competitions last March.
sara takanashi Japan’s, who earned bronze at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, won her 61st World Cup title earlier this month and raised her record for a female or male ski jumper.
“Kramer is the strongest jumper and when he’s on, he’s hard to beat,” Spillane said. “Takanashi is the most winning ski jumper of all time – among men or women – but he doesn’t have a gold medal from the Olympics yet.”
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Swiss jumper Simon Ammann – a surprise star at the Salt Lake City Games two decades ago, when he won two gold medals – is not yet done turning 40.
Amman won two more golds at the 2010 Vancouver Games. He is well ahead of his flagship, ranking number 35, in the World Cup standings. But if he can somehow win a fifth Olympic gold, he will break the record he shared with the late Matti Nyakanen of Finland. As with any medal, Amman will match Nyken’s mark for the most Olympic medals in the history of the sport.
The fifth and final gold medal in ski jumping will be awarded in the team event on February 14. Norway, Germany and Austria have won the last three Olympic team events. A trio of traditional powers will likely fight for the medals. Slovenia also have a shot at making it to the podium.
he has returned
Kevin Bickner won the US Trials last month, helping him travel to the Olympics for a second time. The 25-year-old Bikaner, who learned to jump in suburban Chicago at Norgay Ski Club, finished 18th on Normal Hill and 20th on Big Hill at the Pyeongchang Games.
The United States women’s ski jumping team did not qualify for the Beijing Games. USA Nordic is developing a number of youth jumpers, including 21-year-old Wisconsin native Anna Hoffman, who won the US Trials, and hopes to be competitors at the 2026 Olympics in Italy.
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