History

Skijumping is a very old sport, which has its origin already in the 18th century. Back then farmers in the Norwegian province of Telemark used small hills on alpine slopes for short jumps. With time, the interest and the enthusiasm for this new discipline rose and skijumping became a sport of its own.


In 1796 Dutch Cornelius de Jong was the first to report about Norwegian soldiers who used snow-covered woodpiles and barn roofs as their “hills”. Soon they realized that the pressure at the landing can be reduced when the landing-area is moved from the plain to the hillside. It was not until 1883 that Torju Torjussen discovered that the telemark, which is still used today, is the safest way to land.

According to different sources Olaf Rye showed the first measured jump in 1808. The Norwegian landed at 9.5 meters. But soon longer distances were reached. An outstanding jump was shown by Sondre Auverson Nordheim in 1860. He jumped 30.5 meters, a distance that could not be surpassed for over 30 years.

At that time also the first skijumping competitions were held. But until about 1880 the athletes jumped with sticks that were mainly used to keep the balance during the inrun and reach a higher speed through a more stable position.

At the Huseby-hill in Oslo the first annual competition took place since 1879 before this event was moved to the world-famous Holmenkollen in 1892. Until today the famous Holmenkollen-Games or organized there with competitions in all nordic disciplines.

End of the 19th century the sport of skijumping was brought to the USA through Norwegian immigrants. Jumpers like Sondre Nordheim tried to earn some money with this uncommon discipline, performed in circuses and organized competitions. At these events the only goal was to jump as far as possible to delight the audience. Later even in the famous Hollywood-Bowl stadium in Los Angeles a hill was built on which jumps of 120 ft. (about 37 m) were possible in 1938.

Also in Europe the sport was dominated and characterized by the Norwegians although competitions already took place in central Europe as well. For example a competition was held in Austria in 1893, but also this ended with the victory of a Norwegian jumper who was living in Vienna at that time.

Back then it was already tried to build bigger and bigger hills and so the jumpers had to adjust their style and technique to the higher speeds. It was tried to reduce the air resistance for example by changing the position of the arms and by not keeping the body in an upright position.

Already at the first Olympic Winter Games in history, 1924 in Chamonix (FRA), a skijumping event was part of the program. According to the situation in the sport during these years the first Olympic champion, Jakob Tullin Thams, came from Norway. Second was Narve Bonna (NOR) and the bronze medal was won by Anders Haugen. But the American didn’t get this medal until 50 years later. Due to a mistake in the calculation it was first awarded to Thorleif Haug. At a meeting of the competitors this error was brought to the attention of the IOC and Haug’s daughter handed the bronze medal over to Anders Haugen.

The year of the first Winter Games was also the year in which the International Ski Federation (FIS) was founded. The FIS then started organizing regular skijumping competitions five years later. These first years of “organized” skijumping were dominated by Birger Ruud. The man from Kongsberg won two gold medals at Olympic Games and three World-Championships in the 1930s. He also developed the so-called “Kongsberg-Style” with bended hips and moving arms.

In 1936 the FIS started to regulate the construction of the jumping hills and issued international standards. Back then it was forbidden to build hills on which jumps longer than 80 meters are possible. Nevertheless the first ever skiflying hill was built in Planica (SLO) but It took several more years until competitions on this hill were approved by the International Federation.

The first central European who could break in the Scandinavian domination was Austrian Sepp Bradl. In Planica in 1936 he was the first jumper in history to fly beyond the 100 m mark.

By then the athletes moved their arms in circles during the jumps or had them extended over their head. After scientific researches in the 1940s Andreas Däscher and the Swiss scientist Reinhard Straumann suggested to hold the arms in a steady position ("Däscher-Style").

The New-Year’s-Competition in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) in 1953 was the kick-off for the first ever 4-Hills-Tournament with three more events in Oberstdorf (GER), Innsbruck (AUT) and Bischofshofen (AUT). Until today this tournament takes place annually and enjoys a lot of attention by the fans and the media. The overall victory is one of the most important and prestigious titles in international skijumping.

Already one year later the first hill was covered with plastic mats in Zella-Mehlis (GER). This allowed the jumpers to train also during the summer already in the 1950s.

From 1964 on there were two skijumping competitions held at World-Championships. In addition to the traditional event on the normal hill, now also a competition on the large hill was included in the program. The first official skiflying World-Championships took place in Planica in 1972.

One more important milestone in the development of skijumping as we know it was the introduction of the World-Cup in the season 1979/80. The winner of the first ever World-Cup skijumping competition was Austrian Toni Innauer, the first overall victory went to his compatriot Hubert Neuper. Today about 30 World-Cup competitions are carried out every season. In addition to this series a Continental-Cup is organized since 1993 as the so-called “second division”.

The last major change in the style of jumping was initiated by Jan Boklöv in 1987. He formed a V with his skis during the flight, could so increase the lift and therefore jump longer distances. The Swede discovered this style coincidentally during an actually bad training jump. At first Boklöv couldn’t get many advantages out of this because he got big deductions in the style-marks. But when he won the overall World-Cup title in 1988/89 more and more other jumpers decided to use the new style and in the early 90s the V-style finally prevailed over the parallel-style. Only a few athletes like, for example, Jens Weissflog, Andreas Felder, Dieter Thoma, Ari-Pekka Nikkola and Ernst Vettori could win competitions with both techniques.

From then on there were no significant changes of the jumping-style. But still the hills have to be adjusted to the latest requirements to receive the FIS certificate which is necessary to get the permission to host competitions. In recent years this affected for example the decrease of the altitude of the jumper to make the sport safer and to reduce the influence of the wind conditions.

In the season 1990/91 the qualification was introduced to reduce the huge number of sometimes more than a hundred competitors in the competition. From then on only 50 jumpers were allowed to start in the first round which made it easier to carry out fair and safe competitions.

58 years after Sepp Bradl showed the first jump over 100 meter, Austrian Andreas Goldberger was the first to land beyond the 200 meter mark on March 17, 1994. Unfortunately he could not stand this jump and so the 203 m of the Finn Toni Nieminen later the same day count as the first official jump over this historic mark.

Today skijumping is one of the most popular disciplines in winter sports. Especially in Europe lots of fans come to the hills to watch the competitions and high ratings are reached with live TV coverage. At the moment this fascinating sport is practiced in about 20 countries on the World-Cup level.