Beloved for the presentation of soaring athleticism, ski jumping has been a part of every Winter Olympics since the first meeting of the games at Chamonix, France, in 1924.
For the first time in history, a women's individual event has been added for Sochi, which complements two men's individual events and men's team competition. There is great anticipation for this new event, and it is hoped it will draw even more fans to this already-popular sport.
Ski jumping offers great appeal because of the simplicity of the concept, despite the great demands of soaring into the air at speeds up to 95-km/h. Skiers make their jumps by picking up speed while going down a takeoff ramp. Then they must land gracefully on their feet, reaching a minimum distance in the air, and proper form is judged by several factors.
Here is a look at five basic terms from the sport of ski jumping that will be heard during broadcasts of the action from Sochi in February 2014:
Individual normal hill: Known as K-90 for its calculation point of 90 meters, this is a competition in which skiers make their jump into the air from a hill measured as HS (hill size) 105. Hill size calculates radius, angle of the slope, and expected distance. Distances of 110 meters can be reached in this event.
Following a training run, two jumps are attempted to decide a winner, but only the top efforts in the initial round move onto the final one. Scoring is based on the length of the jump, but skiers are additionally judged with points for style and form. Both men and women will compete on a K-90 hill at Sochi, and it will additionally be used for individual and team Nordic combined events.
Individual large hill: Known as K-120 for its calculation point of 120-meters, this Olympic competition follows the same rules for jumping and scoring as those waged on normal-sized hills. As athletes enter into their jump, the hill encountered is longer and steeper, so the participant can soar further into the air. Hill size is measured as 140 and thrilling distances approaching 145 meters can be achieved on these larger jumps. In addition to individual competition, team jumps occur on this setting, as does a third Nordic combined event.
Men's team event: This fun Olympic event is held on K-120 hills. Teams are composed of four participants from the same country and two jumps are attempted by each member of the squad. Individual scores are awarded, but the team's total score is what matters, and it is attained by adding together the collective scores of all four competitors. The final round is limited to the top eight teams, which further adds to the drama of this event.
Calculation point: Also known as critical point, or K-point, this is the marking on every hill in which skiers aim to reach with their jump. The calculation point rests in the middle of the landing area and points are awarded for successfully touching down on the K-point, though extra points can be added for exceeding it. Hill size corresponds with calculation point, but the figures are not identical. Nevertheless, the greater the distance of the hill becomes, the further the placement of the K-point for the jump is set.
V-style ski jumping: This modern technique has become standard for Olympic competition, but was not commonly introduced to the sport until the 1990s. Athletes were long expected to keep their skis parallel to each other and anything else resulted in a loss of style points. However, it was discovered that keeping the skis in a V-shape pattern -- where skis are closer together at the skier's feet than by the torso -- results in improved aerodynamics and further distance.
Jeff Briscoe is a longtime fan of Olympic competition and a regular contributor to the Yahoo Contributor Network. He will be talking Sochi 2014 on The Sports Train radio show in Southwest Florida.
- Sports & Recreation
- Winter Olympics
- Ski jumping