The 2018 Ski Flying World Championships entered its second day. It began as a very nice day. Temperatures about 3º C (37º F) and snow was falling.
Heini-Klopfer-Skiflugschanz (Heini Klopfer Ski Flying Hill)
The hill is located about 5 kilometers south of Oberstdorf. Shuttle buses take spectators from the center of Oberstdorf to the ski hill. Having been to five different ski jumping/flying hills in Europe, this to me is the most beautiful setting. The arena is nestled in the valley. A stream flows through the valley and shows its beauty in a winter setting.
On one side of the valley sits the ski flying hill.
On the other side sits a ridge of mountains. Our days have been cloudy and snowy, but I can imagine how the beauty of this setting increases against a blue sky.
History of the Ski Flying World Championships
Ski flying started gaining momentum back in the 1950’s with the construction of ski flying hills throughout Europe, but it wasn’t until 1972 that the first world championships were held. Can you guess where that was held? Yes, in Oberstdorf. The second championships were held the next year in Planica, Slovenia and after that the championships have been held every two years.
The rules are similar to that of ski jumping. Points are awarded for distance and style. There are five judges representing different nations who award the points for style. Adjustments are also made for gate location, wind, etc. Ski Flying embraces 21st century technology!!
The format of the world championships is different than that of normal competitions. The champion is determined after four jumps based on who has the most total points at the end. One poor jump can easily take a top competitor down 20 places or more.
2018 Ski Flying World Championships
This year there were 16 countries represented by the 48 jumpers who started the 2018 Ski Flying World Championships. The jumpers did a qualification jump and the field was trimmed to 40 jumpers for the first round of the competition. After the first round of the competition, the field was reduced to 30 jumpers who would continue through the remaining three rounds.
Qualification was to have been done on Thursday; but the winds, which can hold up competitions, got stronger. The qualification round was moved to Friday when rounds 1 and 2 were to be held. It was good weather and we completed the qualification and the first two rounds on that day.
The Oldest Participant in the World Championships
Noriaki Kasai is a very popular jumper from Japan. He is 45 years old!! He was the ski flying world champion in 1992. In 2016, he was honored by the Guinness Book of World Records as the individual with the most FIS World Cup starts, not only in jumping but in all World Cup disciplines. He has been competing for 29 years, more years than most of the jumpers are old!!! And the 2018 Winter Olympics will be his 8th appearance.
I was fortunate to catch his entire jump during the competition. Except if you’re straight on to the hill, which I believe is too far back, one cannot see the jump. But even if you can see the jump, it is so far away that the skiers are just a spec. So I like the side. I watch the video screen as they come down the jump and then watch them as they fly over the knoll and on down the hill. This video gives that entire perspective.
Wind – The Ski Flyers Enemy
As I wrote earlier, it was a beautiful day. That was until after the trial run (practice run) and about 15 minutes before the beginning of round 3. At that time, the wind increased again. I used to think ski jumpers went to the top of the hill and jumped. I never gave any thought to weather conditions, except if there would be enough snow. Snow can be man-made. Wind can’t be reduced except by surrounding the jump with trees and wind barriers. But even that is not always enough.
As shown below in the picture of the video screen, there are wind gauges on both sides of the hill. These are constantly monitoring the wind. If the wind exceeds the norm throughout certain parts of the hill, the red light is on. When the winds subside, the jumper will get a green light to go.
Sometimes a jumper will go to the middle of the rail to sit in preparation for the jump and then be told to move back to the side….sometimes several times. And they always look so relaxed!!!
And The Winner Is…….
Round 3 was completed without any difficulties. And then the winds increased more. Round 4 only saw three jumpers before the FIS officials determined the tournament would go no further and the winner of the competition became the individual who was leading at the end of round 3. And that was Daniel Andre Tande from Norway, the winner of the individual competition for the 2018 Ski Flying World Championships.
Sunday is the team competition. See you then as you learn more about the history of ski flying at History Thru Travel.