Ski jumping 101: Olympic history

Ski jumping 101: Olympic history
Posted at 5:09 PM, Oct 07, 2021


The first measured ski jump was constructed in 1860, and the first ski jumping test was held two years later. Ski jumping was included in Norwegian ski carnivals throughout the mid 1800s but was not a true competition until 1892, when the Norwegian royal family awarded a “King’s Cup” trophy to a winner at a small competition near Oslo. The longest jump was 21.5 meters.

Norwegian emigrants brought the sport to the United States in the late 1800s, and the first competition in the U.S. was held in St. Paul, Minn. in 1887. Around the same time, the sport’s popularity was also growing in New England.

Ski jumping made its way to American traveling circuses, being included in the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus in the early parts of the 1900s and into the 1930s, when two-time Olympic gold medalist Birger Ruud went on tour throughout the U.S. He participated in a 60-man competition before 88,000 people at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1938 and before 50,000 spectators at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

1924 Chamonix

Norway’s Jacob Tullin Thams won the first ski jumping Olympic gold (the large hill, then the sprint, was the only event contested at Winter Olympics prior to 1964). Countryman Narve Bonna won the silver, while the Norway’s Thorleif Haug was originally awarded the bronze. After a computational error in scores was discovered 50 years later, the U.S.’ Anders Haugen was awarded the bronze at age 86 in a special ceremony in Oslo.

Thams later became the second athlete in history to win medals at both the Winter and Summer Games: he won a silver medal in sailing at the 1936 Olympics.

1928 St. Moritz

Norwegian jumpers won gold (Alf Anderson) and silver (Sigmund Ruud) despite the fact that they thought the high starting point chosen by the hosts gave an unfair boost to mediocre jumpers. The Norwegians, who had also won gold and silver in 1924, were called “cowards” by the Swiss for disputing this point. Rudolf Burkert of Czechoslovakia won the bronze.

1932 Lake Placid

Norway’s Birger Ruud won the gold, his first of three career Olympic medals. His gold medal spearheaded a Norwegian medal sweep in ski jumping, as Hans Beck won the silver and Kaare Wahlberg earned the bronze.

1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Ruud won gold for the second consecutive Olympics. Countryman Reidar Andersen earned the bronze medal, while Sweden’s Sven Eriksson captured the silver. Ruud also competed in alpine skiing, a sport that was making its Olympic debut with the men’s and women’s combined events. Ruud led after the downhill portion of the combined but was penalized six seconds for missing a gate in the slalom. The penalty ultimately cost him a medal; he finished fourth.

1948 St. Moritz

At age 36, Ruud, the gold medalist in 1932 and 1936, returned to Olympic competition after the 12-year break for war. Ruud had been held at a Nazi prison camp for 18 months during World War II and later fought in the Norwegian resistance. In 1948, he went to St. Moritz as a ski jumping coach, but decided to enter himself in the competition in place of an inexperienced jumper when he saw that the weather conditions were poor. He won a silver as part of a Norwegian sweep of the medals (Petter Hugsted won the gold and Thorleif Schjelderup earned the bronze). His competitive Olympic career spanned 16 years and yielded two golds and a silver. He became the first ski jumper to win a medal in three different Olympics, and he accomplished that feat even with two Winter Games in the middle of the string (1940 and 1944) cancelled because of war.

1952 Oslo

A crowd of approximately 150,000 people watched the host nation’s Arnfinn Bergmann and Torbjorn Falkanger finish first and second, respectively. Sweden’s Karl Holmstrom won the bronze.

1956 Cortina D’Ampezzo

Norway’s winning streak was finally snapped when Finland’s Antti Hyvarinen and Aulis Kallakorpi won gold and silver, respectively. Their medals were attributed to perfecting a more aerodynamic style in the air, leaning forward with both arms pinned to their sides. East Germany’s Harry Glass captured the bronze.

1960 Squaw Valley

Helmut Recknagel become the first German athlete to win a gold medal in ski jumping at the Olympic Winter Games. Finland’s Niilo Halonen earned the silver while Austria’s Otto Leodolter captured the bronze medal.

1964 Innsbruck

A second individual jumping event was added to the Olympic program; the two events are often referred to as “normal hill” and “large hill.” In 1964 only, jumpers were allowed to count the best two of their three jumps. This rule saved Finland’s Veikko Kankkonen in the normal hill event; his first jump was only 29th-best but his second and third jumps won him the gold medal. Kankkonen also won silver in the large hill event nine days later. In fact, the same three men who won medals in the normal hill event also won medals in large hill, albeit in a different order. On the normal hill, the gold, silver and bronze medals went to Kankkonen, Toralf Engan and Torgeir Brandtzaeg, both of Norway. But on the large hill, Engan, Kankkonen, and Brandtzaeg.

1968 Grenoble

Czechoslovakia’s Jiri Raska won gold in the normal hill and silver in the large hill. Reinhold Bachler and Baldur Preiml, both of Austria, won the silver and bronze normal hill medals, respectively. The Soviet Union’s Vladimir Belousov took the large hill gold, while Lars Grini of Norway captured the bronze.

1972 Sapporo

Before these Games, Japan had won only one medal in the history of the Winter Olympics. But Yukio Kasaya was Japan’s best hope for a medal in Sapporo, and he performed well in front of the 100,000 spectators, recording the best jump of each round of the normal hill competition. Japan swept the medals in that event, as Akitsugu Konno and Seiji Aochi took the silver and bronze medals. In the large hill, Poland’s Wojciech Fortuna won with a spectacular first jump. His second jump was only 22nd-best in the round, but it was still good enough for the gold. It was Poland’s first gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games. Walter Steiner of Switzerland took home the silver and East Germany’s Rainer Schmidt won the bronze.

1976 Innsbruck

Austria and East Germany split the six available medals; each country won a gold, silver and bronze. East Germany’s Hans-Georg Aschenbach, who won the normal hill, later admitted to having taken anabolic steroids for eight years. In describing the anxiety he felt over the possibility of being caught (which he wasn’t), Aschenbach said, “Nobody can imagine what you go through. You even forget that you have won.” East Germany’s Jochen Danneberg won normal hill silver and Austria’s Karl Schnabl took the bronze. On the large hill, it was Schnabl with the gold, followed by countryman Anton Innauer for silver. East Germany’s Henry Glass came away with the bronze.

1980 Lake Placid

Austria’s Anton Innauer won gold in the normal hill, followed by East Germany’s Manfred Deckert for silver. Hirokazu Yagi of Japan won the bronze. On the large hill, Finland’s Jouko Tormanen won the gold, and countryman Jari Puikkonen won the bronze. Hubert Neuper of Austria took the silver.

1984 Sarajevo

East Germany’s Jens Weissflog topped two Finns on the normal hill podium, with a 17.5 points margin, the largest margin in individual Olympic jumping history. Matti Nykanen and Jari Puikkonen won silver and bronze, respectively. Nykanen won gold on the large hill, while Weissflog earned the silver. Pavel Plov of Czechoslovakia captured the bronze.

1988 Calgary

Matti Nykanen of Finland swept the individual events, becoming the first man to win two jumping golds in one Games. He then added a third gold medal in the inaugural team jumping competition, which was introduced for the Calgary Olympics. On the normal hill, Czechoslovakia’s Pavel Ploc and Jiri Malec earned silver and bronze, respectively. Great Britian’s Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards finished last among normal hill jumpers, but developed a cult following from British and American fans. On the large hill, Erik Johnsen of Norway and Matjal Debelak of Yugoslavia finished with silver and bronze medals, respectively, behind Nykanen. Yugoslavia and Norway earned silver and bronze medals behind Finland’s large hill team.

1992 Albertville

Austria claimed the top two spots on the normal hill podium, with Ernst Vettori winning gold and Martin Hollwarth earning the silver. Toni Nieminen of Finland took the bronze on the normal hill, but because the youngest male to win a Winter Olympic gold medal in an individual event on the large hill at age 16 years and 261 days. Hollwarth earned another silver on the large hill, while Austria’s Heinz Kuttin earned the bronze medal. In the team event, Finland took the gold, while Austria (including Hollwarth, Kuttin, and Vettori) won silver, and Czechoslovakia took the bronze.

1994 Lillehammer

This time it was Norway who took the gold (Espen Bredesen) and silver (Lasse Ottesen) spots on the normal hill podium. Germany’s Deiter Thoma earned the bronze. On the large hill, Jens Weissflog of Germany returned to the podium after 10 years to win gold. Bredesen won the silver while Austria’s Andreas Goldberger took the bronze. In the team event, Weissflog set what was then an Olympic record en route to their gold medal victory. Japan took the silver and Austria won bronze.

1998 Nagano

Finland’s Jani Soininen captured normal hill gold ahead of Japan’s Kazuyoshi Funaki, who took the silver. Austria’s Andreas Widholzl earned the bronze. On the large hill, Funaki flipped the script, winning gold ahead of Soininen, who took silver. Masahiko “Happy” Harada, known for his unfailing cheerfulness – despite botching the jump that cost Japan the team gold in 1994 – won bronze on the large hill and followed it up by aiding his country in winning team gold on home soil.

2002 Salt Lake

On the normal hill, Switzerland’s Simon Ammann upstaged favorite Adam Malysz of Poland for the gold medal. He also drew attention for his significant resemblance to J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard character Harry Potter. Sven Hannawald of Germany captured the silver and Malysz won the bronze. On the large hill, Ammann became just the second man to sweep the individual events in a single Olympics. Malysz won the silver, while Finland’s Matti Hautamaki captured the bronze. Germany won the team event gold, followed by Finland for silver and Slovenia for bronze.

2006 Torino

Norway, the all-time leader in Olympic ski jumping medals, failed to collect a single medal at both the 1998 and 2002 Games, but rebounded at the 2006 Torino Games, largely thanks to 27-year-old Lars Bystoel. Bystoel became the fifth man to win three ski jumping medals at a single Games. He won gold on the normal hill over Finland’s Matti Hautamaeki by one point. (Norway’s Roar Ljokelsoy earned the bronze.) Bystoel won bronze on the large hill behind Austrian teammates – and roommates – Thomas Morgenstern (gold) and Andreas Kofler (silver). In the team event, Austria took the gold with the help of Morgenstern and Kofler, Finland earned the silver, and Bystoel & Co. earned the bronze for Norway.

2010 Vancouver

Switzerland’s Simon Ammann was repeated his double-gold feat from 2002: he won gold in both the normal hill, and, a week later, the large hill. Poland’s Adam Malysz followed for silver in both events, while Austria’s Gregor Schlierenzauer took bronze in both events. Schlierenzauer and his Austrian teammates - Thomas Morgenstern, Andreas Kofler and Wolfgang Loitzl – defended the country’s team gold medal from Torino. Germany followed for silver in the team event, while Norway collected bronze medals.

Ammann stirred controversy by implementing a new, innovative binding system, but the International Ski Federation ruled it was legal. Malysz’s fourth Olympic medal made him the most decorated Polish man at the Winter Games.

2014 Sochi

Poland’s Kamil Stoch doubled up to take home gold on the normal hill and on the large hill. Peter Prevc of Slovenia also stood on the podium for both events, claiming a silver on the normal hill and a bronze on the large hill. Japan’s Noriaki Kasai competed in a record-tying seventh Winter Olympics and earned his first individual medal in Sochi, a silver on the large hill. He also finished eighth on the normal hill. Norway’s Anders Bardal claimed the normal hill bronze medal.  Austria could not three-peat in the team event, managing a silver medal behind Germany’s team. Japan took home the bronze.

For the first time, women competed in ski jumping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics on a single event, the normal hill. Germany’s Carina Vogt won the inaugural gold medal, while Austria’s Daniela Iraschko-Stolz claimed the silver. France’s Coline Mattel earned the bronze.

In the summer of 2013, the U.S.’ Sarah Hendrickson tore her ACL, MCL and more than three-quarters of her meniscus during a training run. However, she was put on the Olympic team and was the first woman to ski jump in Sochi, wearing bib No. 1. She finished 21st. Her U.S. teammates Jessica Jerome and Lindsey Van fared better, finishing tenth and 15th. 

2018 PyeongChang

Four years after sweeping the men's individual events, Kamil Stoch was dethroned in the normal hill in South Korea by German Andreas Wellinger. Stoch managed a disappointing fourth place, but set things right on the large hill with a repeat gold medal performance.

Wellinger, with a silver on the normal hill and with Germany in the team competition, managed a medal in all three events, as did Robert Johansson, who earned gold with Norway's foursome and bronze in both individual events.

The second-ever Olympic women's competition featured a completely different podium than the first. Norway's Maren Lundby outscored Katharina Althaus of Germany and Sara Takanashi of Japan to become Olympic champion.