The Story So Far
In the few years leading up to Vancouver, the story in Ski Jumping was largely a tale of 3 men Ė Simon Ammann, Thomas Morgenstern and Gregor Schlierenzauer. Adam Malysz was also in the mix, but he retired at the end of the 2010/11 season.
Going into Sochi, and these three are still the favourites. However, they have been going up and down the rankings in the intervening four years.
Morgi has had a very rough couple of years. Last season he was not performing very well at all. He had just become a father, and we were putting it down to the tiredness that comes with having a new baby. But we soon found out that there was more to it than just a baby. Only a matter of weeks later, Tommy and his girlfriend split up.
Morgi was looking good this season. At Titisee-Neustadt, 2 weeks before the Four Hills started, he won his first competition in nearly 2 years. But, the next day, he had a fall, and broke a finger. He sat out Engelberg, but came back for Oberstdorf with his finger in a splint.
After Oberstdorf, Andreas Widhoezl (who is now on the Austrian coaching team) suggested that Tommy needed a splint on his other hand too, because he was over-compensating. But Tommy said that he was finding it hard enough to push off the bar with one hand bound up without the other hand being bound up too!
His results in the Four Hills were actually very good considering he was injured. In fact he finished 2nd overall in the Tournee! But then, during a training round at the next round at Kulm, Morgi had a horrible looking fall. It was awful to watch. He suffered injuries to his head and his lungs.
Unsurprisingly, Morgi hasnít been in competition since. Yet, despite this, he has now been confirmed as being in the Austrian Olympic team.
Last season, Schlieri became the most successful ski jumper ever, taking away Matti Nykšnenís long-held record of 46 career wins. And he didnít stop there Ė he is now into the 50ís. Considering he is only 24, that could become a very big total.
Yet, this season has been a real mixed-bag for Schlieri. After dominating the World Cup last season, he has been up and down like I donít know what this season! He had 2 wins at the start of the season. But since then, the only times he has been on the podium were the 2 competitions at Kulm.
Like, Schlieri only managed 8th overall in this yearís Four Hills Tournee. Apart from a 4th at home in Innsbruck, he was very disappointing.
Although he is currently 3rd in the World Cup, that is more down to the fact that the points are being spread out because we have had so many different winners this season.
Ammann is now one of the jumpers over thirty. A few years ago, he said that although he has achieved so much in his career, he still had two aims:
1. to win the Four Hills Tournee (as this is the only major title he did not have)
2. to compete at the Sochi Olympics (because his wife is Russian)
Ammann was looking good coming into the Four Hills last season. But then he took sick after the first round at Oberstdorf, and that was the end of that challenge.
In this yearís Four Hills, he came into the final round at Bishofshofen with a very good chance of winning the title. But, he did not have a great landing in his first jump, and lost a lot of style points. His second jump was good, but then Thomas Diethart came along and put in a winning jump.
Simon still hasnít won the Four Hills. So, I expect that he will continue into next season for another try. I would hate to see somebody as successful as him missing out on having that last major accolade.
I have already mentioned Thomas Diethart in passing. He has been the revelation of this season. I had never heard tell of him before December! He only joined the World Cup at Engelberg and, apart from the farcical competition at Zakopane a couple of weeks ago, his worst finish has been 6th.
In the Four Hills, his worst result was a 5th in Innsbruck. He was 3rd at Oberstdorf, and won at Garmisch and Bishofshofen. Unsurprisingly, he won the title.
The other guy who I believe has an outside chance of a medal is Anders Bardal of Norway. Bardal won the World Cup overall in the 2011/11 season. It was not so much because of number of wins (he only got 3 wins, whereas Schlieri and Andreas Kofler got 5 wins each), but more to do with his sheer consistency.
Currently, Bardal is lying 6th in the World Cup standings. He has only had 1 win this season, and that was the farcical competition at Zakopane. But, he has also had 2 seconds and a third.
For me, these are the guys to watch out for at the Olympics. However, I havenít even mentioned yet the current Top 2 in the World Cup!
Petr Prevc of Slovenia is currently leading, with Kamil Stoch of Poland in second. This is purely down to consistency. Prevc has had 2 wins this season (his only individual career wins), but has had lots of top 6 finishes, particularly since Innsbruck. Stoch has also had 2 wins this season, but since Titisee-Neustadt, he has only been out of the Top 10 twice, one of those times being the farcical competition at Zakopane.
So, although these guys are at the top of the World Cup, I would not have them as potential Olympic Champions. But, you never know.
Other names to look out for include Noriaki Kasai. The oldest regular competitor in the World Cup at 41 years old, he recently had his first World Cup win in 10 years. Nori has also been having a very good season, and is currently lying 4th overall in the World Cup standings. A dark horse for an Olympic medal, particularly in the Ski Flying!
Another old guy to watch out for is Janne Ahonen. Yes, he is back again! Janne first retired in 2008. But, he came back in 2009/10 for the Olympic season. And he had a very good season, the highlight being finishing 2nd overall in the Four Hills.
But, then he made a mistake. Instead of doing the Summer Grand Prix like a lot of the other jumpers, Janne spent the summer drag racing. When he came back in the 2010/11 season, he was a shadow of the guy we saw just a few months earlier. And, ultimately, he decided to retire again.
Nordic sports in Finland are still struggling to get over the doping scandal in cross-country of 2001. But, last season, things got to crisis point in ski jumping. Their top jumper, Matti Hautamaeki, had retired at the end of the 2011/12 season. Harri Olli had been given yet another ban for bad behaviour, and then decided to quit the sport (He has since attempted to make a couple of comebacks, but hasnít troubled the scorers). Most of their other jumpers were either injured, such as Janne Happonen and Annsi Koivuranta, or really struggling, such as Ville Larinto.
So, as there was a real shortage of jumpers, Ahonen decided to come back again during the 2012/13 season. And whilst it has not been as successful as his previous comeback, us nostalgic ones will be hoping he can put on a good display in Sochi!
In the Team competition, it will be between Austria, Germany and Slovenia. Austria has always had the strongest team in recent years. Germany has traditionally been the next best, but their jumpers are having a disappointing season. So, I would not be surprised if Slovenia jumped past them.
Those that have not been following ski jumping since Vancouver may be surprised that I suggest Slovenia for a medal. But, over the past few years, they have developed into a very strong team, in both menís and womenís ski jumping. They have so many good jumpers in both that it was very hard to choose who would be sent to Sochi.
Put it like this Ė if there had been a mixed-team competition at the Olympics, I would have definitely put money on Slovenia for the gold, as they are the only country that are strong in both menís and womenís jumping.
Japan was traditionally the 3rd best team, but Nori Kasai is the only male Japanese jumper that is doing anything this season. All the others are not doing well at all.
So, going into Sochi, I believe that the following will be the ones to watch:
Thomas Morgenstern (if he is fit enough)
Outside chances for a podium:
Any of the Slovenian boys
Hope this helps
BBC (all times GMT)
Saturday 8th February 2014
15:15 Ė 16:00 SJ Menís Individual Normal Hill Trial Round
16:30 Ė 17:30 SJ Menís Individual Normal Hill Qualifying
Sunday 9th February 2014
16:30 Ė 17:00 SJ Menís Individual Normal Hill Trial Round
17:30 Ė 18:14 SJ Menís Individual Normal Hill Round 1
18:45 Ė 19:06 SJ Menís Individual Normal Hill Round 2
Tuesday 11th February 2014
16:30 Ė 17:00 SJ Womenís Individual Normal Hill Trial Round
17:30 Ė 18:20 SJ Womenís Individual Normal Hill Round 1
18:25 Ė 18:56 SJ Womenís Individual Normal Hill Round 2
Wednesday 12th February 2014
08:30 Ė 09:00 NC Individual Normal Hill Trial Round
09:30 Ė 10:30 NC Individual Normal Hill Competition
12:30 Ė 13:15 NC Individual 10km Cross-Country
Friday 14th February 2014
16:15 Ė 16:56 SJ Menís Individual Big Hill Trial Round
17:30 Ė 18:45 SJ Menís Individual Big Hill Qualifying
Saturday 15th February 2014
16:30 Ė 17:00 SJ Menís Individual Big Hill Trial Round
17:30 Ė 18:14 SJ Menís Individual Big Hill Round 1
18:45 Ė 19:06 SJ Menís Individual Big Hill Round 2
Monday 17th February 2014
16:15 Ė 16:45 SJ Menís Team Big Hill Trial Round
17:15 Ė 18:02 SJ Menís Team Big Hill Round 1
18:22 Ė 18:57 SJ Menís Team Big Hill Round 2
Tuesday 18th February 2014
08:30 Ė 09:00 NC Individual Big Hill Trial Round
09:30 Ė 10:30 NC Individual Big Hill Competition
12:00 Ė 13:00 NC Individual 10km Cross-Country
Thursday 20th February 2014
08:30 Ė 09:00 NC Team Big Hill Trial Round
09:30 Ė 10:30 NC Team Big Hill Competition
12:00 Ė 13:00 NC Team 4x5km Cross-Country