The oldest skis that have survived till our times in relatively good condition, were found in Hoting (Sweden). They date back to 2500 B.C.
The oldest record about military using of skis is connected with the battle of Isen, which took place in the year 1200, in Oslo (Norway). Six centuries later, this country became the homeland of ski sports. Norwegian skis were presented for the first time in Turin, in 1794. They were considered rather bizarre by Europeans at that time.
The first information concerning ski sport came from Llewellyn Lloyd, a journalist of "Field Sports of the North of Europe", who stayed once in Telemark (a region of Norway). He wrote then: "I saw here a sort of a game which was familiar to all inhabitants of this nook – skiing down a very steep slope".
Sondre Aursen Nordheim, a carpenter from Morgedal in Telemark, who was making skis and teaching skiing, has been known as the father of ski sports. He also holds the first record in ski jumping – 18 metres.
The first ski club ("Trysil Shooting and Skiing Club") was established in Norway, in 1861. Five years later, the first ski competition, "Holmenkollen Nordic", was organized on a slope in Holmenkollen. After some time, it was called "The Nordic Games". In 1881 a weekly magazine, "Norsk Idraedblad", covered a competition in Christiania (an old name for Oslo), describing a ski jumper who ended his jump with a telemark and amazed the audience. Torjus Hemmestveit, a shoemaker from Telemark, was this young hero. He jumped for a distance of 23 metres then. One year later, 20 thousand supporters came to Holmenkollen. They wanted to watch this unusual sport, in which competitors fly like birds. The winner of the competition received a special cup from the king of Norway.
In 1905, after another competition in Holmenkollen, Pierre de Coubertin from Switzerland started being interested in ski jumping. He brought some instructors from Norway to his homeland and wanted to propagate this beautiful sport on the continent. Europe was therefore ready for a boom in ski sports. And so it happened. In 1907 the Polish Tatra Society organized the first skiing course. Two years later, a competition in Davos was held, during which a Norwegian, Harald Smith, set the first official world record in ski jumping – 48 metres. The competitor jumped in a "standing" position, waving his arms, in order to fly further.
In 1916, on a hill in Steamboat Springs (USA), another Norwegian, Anders Haugen, amazed the world with a new technique of jumping. He jumped, leaning forward, holding his skis in parallel, and set a new world record – 65 metres. Soon Haugen's style became very popular. In 1923 it was used by most of ski jumpers in Europe.
In February 1924 the International Ski Federation (FIS) was established. It was the successor of the International Skiing Commission, which had been established in Christiania (present-day Oslo), in Norway, on 18 February 1910.
In the same year the Week of Winter Sports was organized in Chamonix. Later, it was called the 1st Winter Olympic Games. Jacob Tullin – Thams, who jumped twice for a distance of 49 metres, was the winner of the ski jumping competition then.
The first 100 metres
In the year 1936 the boundary of 100 metres was exceeded. An Austrian ski jumper, Josef Bradl, jumped 101 metres on the hill in Planica (Slovenia). Then, one of journalists enchanted by this achievement asked him a question: "Where are the boundaries of ski flights?" The Austrian answered that they couldn't be exactly determined. "Someday somebody will fly for the distance of 200 metres, if a hill appropriate for such jump will exist." Bradl's prediction came true after 56 years. The first competitor to exceed the boundary of 200 metres was Finn, Toni Nieminen. He jumped for the distance of 203 metres on the same – but already modernized – hill in Planica.
The history of the "V" style
Ski jumping is a sport in which almost everything has changed within the last century. Hills are bigger but also safer nowadays. What's more, ski jumping technique is different. At the beginning competitors jumped, "standing" and waving their arms. The rules were changed in the 50's, when jumpers were keeping arms in front, while flying. Then, they kept them along their trunks, correcting the flight with light hands' movements. A real revolution took place in the 90's, when a Swedish ski jumper, Jan Boklöv, introduced the "V" style (when a competitor jumps, skis are not parallel to each other but they form the shape of the letter V). However, this common opinion is a bit unprecise. Presumably, it was not Boklöv who used the "V" style as the first jumper ever, but Miroslaw Graf, a Pole from Szklarska Poreba. In 1969 Graf's colleagues were laughing at his jumps. His style of jumping was considered inappropriate by jury, too. He knew, however, that the "V" style was better than the previous one, because his jumps became considerably longer. Graf has still been dissatisfied with the fact that it was the Swede, not him, who became famous for being the "V" style inventor.
The "V" style, thanks to a lower air resistance, causes that jumps are much longer and safer for ski jumpers. Nevertheless, at the beginning judges were very sceptical about it. That's why, competitors using the "V" style were getting less points for their style of jumping. Then, after many stormy discussions, FIS decided that the "V" style would be treated in the same way as the classical one. As a result, the old style has been completely forgotten and all competitors use the "V" style nowadays. Jens Weissflog (Germany) has been the only jumper in history to win competitions using both the classical and the "V" style. For other ski jumpers such change became a serious problem. Many of them were using the classical style till the end of their careers.
And how will the future of ski jumping look like? Maybe someone will soon exceed the boundary of 250 or even 300 metres? Sporting doctors observe the development of research into human genes with great hopes, as well as fears. The modern knowledge may contribute to the developement of so called genetic doping. For the time being, it has only been tested on animals, and the results were amazing. It turned out that instead of a hard training one may choose an injection of a proper gene which increases competitor's endurance or even the mass of his muscles. Such kind of doping is, in fact, impossible to detect, because the injected substances don't differ from the natural ones. This doping will possibly be used by people very soon. Then, the increase of the mass of muscles from 20% to 50% will no longer be a problem – only one injection will be needed to make it. But will it still be a sport? Technical development will also undoubtedly influence the length of jumping. It will enable to build a hill on which a jumper could exceed the magic 300 metres. Needless to say, we are waiting impatiently for such a jump!!!
written by Paweł Stawowczyk, translated by Dorota Dobrzyńska
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