Women take flight in Olympic ski jumping
Ladies competition made successful debut in Sochi
Male ski jumpers have been soaring through the air for 90 years at the Winter Olympics, but it wasn’t until 2014 in Sochi that women were finally allowed to share the hill with them.
Citing a low number of athletes and participating countries, the International Olympic Committee rejected a proposal to allow the ladies to jump at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, but it had a change of heart in time for the Sochi Games.
The women were limited to only one event in their Olympic debut, the individual normal hill competition. However, judging by their performance on the slopes, they won’t be satisfied with the small hill for long.
Sara Takanashi, a 17-year-old from Japan with 10 World Cup wins this season, came in as the heavy favourite, but it was Germany’s Carina Vogt who captured the historic gold medal in the event, putting up the best scores in each of the two rounds for a total of 247.4 points.
Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria won the silver medal with a total of 246.2, with the bronze going to Coline Mattel of France for her score of 245.2. Takanashi finished fourth.
Canada was represented by a pair of Calgarians, Atsuko Tanaka and Taylor Henrich. Tanaka finished in 12th place with 231.3 points, while Henrich was right behind her in 13th with 230.4 points.
There were plenty of high flyers on the men’s side in Sochi, but Poland’s Kamil Stoch emerged as the undisputed king of the hill.
The reigning large hill world champion topped the podium in the men’s normal hill and large hill events, and the 26-year-old came agonizingly close to a third medal when Poland finished fourth in the team competition. The gold medals were the first for Poland since 1972, when Wojciech Fortuna won the large hill event.
Peter Prevc’s aerial antics earned him multiple medals as well, as the Slovenian won silver in the normal hill and bronze in the large hill.
The other individual medallists on the men’s side included Norway’s Anders Bardal, who finished third in the normal hill, and Japan’s Noriaki Kasai, who came second in the large hill.
The silver for the Japanese jumper marked the pinnacle of an Olympic career 20 years in the making.
The senior citizen of the ski jumping circuit at 41, Kasai made his Olympic debut at Albertville in 1992, but had never before managed to win an individual medal. His runner-up finish here, in his seventh Olympics, ranks as one of Sochi’s biggest stories.
The Japanese veteran also picked up a second medal shortly after the small and large hill events, when Japan placed third in the team event. Germany won the gold, while Austria grabbed the bronze.
Not one to rest on his laurels, the ageless Kasai has also vowed to compete again at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Canadian wings clipped
Canada has never won a medal in Olympic ski jumping, and that record wasn’t in jeopardy in Sochi.
In the normal hill event, Calgary’s Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes and Edmonton’s Dusty Korek qualified for the first round, but failed to make it to the final. The other half of the men’s team, Matthew Rowley of Red Deer and Trevor Morrice of Calgary, didn’t make it past the qualification round.
Boyd-Clowes had the best result for the Canadian contingent in the large hill, making it all the way to the final round and finishing 25th. Rowley and Morrice were eliminated in the first round, while Korek’s day ended after the qualification round.
The Canadian quartet competed in the team event as well, but placed last out of the 12 teams in the field. On a positive note, the four athletes are all between the ages of 18 and 22, meaning they can learn from this experience and work towards better results at the next Winter Olympics in 2018.