Don't know anything about ski jumping? No problem. Here are all the basics you need to know before the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

By Charlotte Carroll
December 06, 2017

The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea are right around the corner! That means it's time to watch sports you might not have seen in four years. To help you feel at least a little more informed—either to impress your friends or fake your way through a conversation with an actual expert—SI will be providing rookie's guides to each of the 15 sports. These will be published daily, Monday through Friday, from December 4-22.

What Is ski jumping?

Ski jumping is what it sounds like — jumping while on skis. Though it sounds simple, it's a detailed event that is mesmerizing to watch. Competitors jump as far as they can from the launching zone to make a stable landing.

The slopes are composed of the built-in ramp (inrun) and the actual hill. Skiers start crouched on the inrun, then begin moving, gaining speed to prepare for takeoff. At the takeoff point, the jumper actually jumps using solely their legs to do this. Timing is extremely important at takeoff to get a good distance. After takeoff, a jumper is usually in the air for five to seven seconds. Skiers are then evaluated on their landing. The distance scored is related to the construction point (K-point) which is a line drawn in the landing area to serve as a target for competitors to reach. After landing, there is the outrun portion of the course. There is a fall line at the end that is used as a judging mark. Anything from takeoff to the fall line will be judged, meaning a jumper who falls before the fall line will lose points. 

Jumps are evaluated by the distance traveled and the style of the jump. There is a more detailed scoring portion at the bottom.

Olympics
2018 Winter Olympics: Ski Jumping Schedule

At this year's Olympics there are four events, meaning there will be four sets of medals — men's individual normal hill, men's individual large hill, men's team large hill and women's individual normal hill. 

A little background

Ski jumping has been around since the first jump in the early 1800s in Norway. Norwegian Sondre Norheim is considered by many as the father of modern ski jumping, winning what's been called the first competition in 1866. It made its way to the United States through Norwegian emigrants in the late 1800s. 

A new technique was pioneered by Thulin Thams and Sigmnud Ruud after World War I. This technique involved bending the upper body at the hip, leaning forward with arms extended at the front while skis are parallel to each other. Austria's Sepp Bradl used this technique to jump more than 100 meters in 1936. In the 1950s, Andreas Daescher held his arms backwards close to the body, leaning forward more. In 1985, Sweden's Jan Boklov spread his skis into a "V" formation that is used today. This "V" technique was initially laughed at but proved extremely successful. 

As techniques have changed, so have the competition formats. 

Ski jumping has been included at the Winter Olympics since the first Games in 1924. The normal hill competition was included for the 1964 Games. In 1988, the men's team event was added as the third type of competition. Women's ski jumping first appeared in the Sochi 2014 games.

The length of the hill has varied anywhere from 70 to 90 meters throughout the years, with the jump first being classified as a large hill at 70 meters until 1956. In 1960, the hill was standardized to 80 meters. But then in 1964, the normal hill competition was added, which was 70 meters. The large hill event then increased from 80 meters to 90 meters in 1968. But now, ski jumping competitions are referred to by their K-point distances rather than the run length prior to launching from the ski jump. 

Norway is the all-time leader in Olympic ski jumping medals. Norway's Birger Ruud is the top medalist in the normal hill with three medals — two gold and one silver. Switzerland's Simon Ammann and Finlands' Matti Nykanen are the top medalists in the large hill event with two gold apiece. 

Stefan Kraft holds the official record for the world's longest ski jump with 253.5 meters in 2017.

At this point, it makes most sense to give mini-guides to each event. We'll break it into four sections, corresponding to each event. 

Men's Individual Normal Hill K90 (70M) 

Format: In this event, there are two training sessions and a qualifier before the final (medal event). Each country can enter a maximum of four athletes. The qualification round will reduce the field of competitors to 50. The qualifier includes one trial jump and one scored jump. The top 10 jumpers from the season's World Cup qualify automatically for the final and they can choose not to jump in the qualifier. 

The final then has one trial jump and two rounds of scored jumps. For the last jump of the final, they start in reverse order of the points they received in the final's first jump. The highest combined score from the two rounds of the final is the winner. 

History: Finland's Veikko Kankkonen won gold in the first normal hill event when it was introduced at the 1964 Olympic games. 

2014 Medal Winners: Men: Gold — Kamil Stoch (Poland), Silver — Peter Prevc Ten (Slovenia), Bronze — Anders Bardal (Norway)

Men's Individual Large Hill K120 (90M)

Format: In this event, there are two training sessions and a qualifier before the final (medal event). Each country can enter a maximum of four athletes. The qualification round will reduce the field of competitors to 50. The qualifier includes one trial jump and one scored jump. The top 10 jumpers from the season's World Cup qualify automatically for the final and they can choose not to jump in the qualifier. 

The final then has one trial jump and two rounds of scored jumps. For the last jump of the final, they start in reverse order of the points they received in the final's first jump. The highest combined score from the two rounds of the final is the winner. 

History: Norway's Jacob Tullin Thams won the first gold medal in the sport's debut at the 1924 Winter Olympics. Thams also won a silver medal in sailing at the 1936 Summer Games. 

2014 Medal Winners: Men: Gold — Kamil Stoch (Poland), Silver — Noriaki Kasai (Japan), Bronze — Peter Prevc Ten (Slovenia)

Men's Team Large Hill K120 (90M) 

Format: Each country has four jumpers. Jumpers are divided into four groups with one jumper from each country per group. There is a trial round and then two rounds of competition. The start order is based on current FIS Nations Cup standings. In the second competition round, only the leading eight teams from the first round will advance. Before the last group in the final round, the start order for the last group will be placed in reverse order of the current standings. 

Getting results is similar to the individual events. Each jumper takes two jumps for a total of eight jumps per team. The scores of the eight jumps are added for a total score, and the team with the highest total wins the event.

History: Finland won the first team event gold medal in 1988, led by Matti Nykanen who also took gold in the men's individual large and normal hills. He was the first man to take both golds in one Olympics. 

2014 Medal Winners: Men: Gold — Germany, Silver — Austria, Bronze — Japan

Women's Individual Normal Hill K90 (70M) 

Format: The women's event has no qualifier, using instead only a final, which contains one trial jump and two rounds of scored jumps. There is no elimination as the same 30 competitors compete in both rounds. The first round's start order is the reverse order of the World Cup standings, and the final jump's start order is a reverse order of the points scored in the first round. The highest combined score from the two rounds is the winner. 

History: Women's ski jumping first appeared in the Olympics at the Sochi 2014 games. Germany's Carina Vogt​ won the first gold ever in Olympic women's ski jumping when the event was introduced at the 2014 Sochi games. 

2014 Medal Winners: Women: Gold — Carina Vogt (Germany), Silver — Daniela Iraschko-Stolz (Austra), Bronze — Coline Mattel (France)

The scoring process

Jumps are evaluated by the distance traveled and the style of the jump. The distance is measured along the curve of the landing hill from the takeoff point to the spot where the jumper lands. 

Jumpers earn points for each meter they fly beyond the K-point and also lose points for each meter they land short of the K-point. In normal hill events, skiers earn 2 extra points for each meter beyond and lose 2 points for each meter short. In large hill events, skiers earn 1.8 extra points for each meter beyond and lose 1.8 points for each meter short. 

The jumper should land in the Telemark position — landing with one ski in front of the other, parallel, lunging forward. 

A jumper will also earn style points on a scale of 0–20 from five judges with the highest and lowest scores being eliminated. A perfect jump can earn a maximum 60-style points.

Starting at the 2014 Olympics, points can also be added or deducted based on the gate and wind factor. Points are added when there are less favorable wind conditions, and if there's a headwind to give jumpers better lift, points are subtracted. Points are reduced for a higher starting gate, while points are added for a lower one.  

Sources: Olympics, Pyeongchang 2018, NBC Olympics

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)