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Ski jumping

Thomas Morgenstern

Jumping off a perilously steep slope with nothing but a pair of giant skis to land on does not sound like the sanest of propositions.

Perhaps that is why ski jumping remains one of the most popular - and spectacular - events at the Winter Olympics.

Of all the sports at the Games, this is the one in which the competitors really fly.

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Olympic ski jumpers compete for medals in three disciplines - the normal hill, large hill and team events.

In individual events, each jumper has three jumps, one test jump and two which count towards the final score.

The team event consists of four members who have two jumps each. However, the second and final round is reduced to the eight leading teams in the competition.

The winner is the team with the highest total score.

Points are given in jump competitions for both length and style.

Length - Each hill has a "K point", which is the distance from the take-off point that is equal to the height of the hill.

So, if the hill is 120m high, the K point is at 120m.

A mathematical formula is used to add points for each additional metre competitors go beyond the K point, or to subtract points if they come up short.

Style - Each of the five judges can award a maximum of 20 points for style.

They assess the jump for a steady flight, balance, control and the landing

The best and worst of the five judges' scores are discounted and the style total is added to the length total to produce a final score for the jump.

The jumper with the best combined total from his two jumps is the winner.

Because of the precise nature of the sport, ski length is measured by a mathematical formula: The jumper's height plus 46% of the jumper's height.

So a skier who is 178cm (5ft 10in) will use a custom-made ski that is 260cm long (178cm + 82cm).

Each jumper has a cord which attaches the ski to the boot. The cord detaches itself from the ski if the jumper falls to minimise the risk of injury.

Apart from the skis, the jumper's other key piece of kit is his suit.

It is made from a thick, spongy material which fills with air mid-flight to increase hang time and distance.

Competitors also wear a light protective helmet, ski goggles and leather gloves.


Unfortunately, there are no ski jumping facilities in the UK, but the sport is very popular in Europe.

The International Ski Federation is the governing body that looks after ski jumping across the world.

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