Hold your hand out the car window at a speed of 90 to 95 km/h and imagine that air pressure on your whole body while soaring through the air with only a pair of skis on your feet. That is exactly how a ski jumper feels.
“Crazy,” some might say. “Being like a bird,” says 21-year-old Canadian ski jumper Atsuko Tanaka, who is currently facing the most exciting time of her life as an athlete because she is on the shortlist for competing at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
If selected for the team, she will be among the first female ski jumpers ever to get this opportunity. While women’s ski jumping was not included in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Sochi will set the stage for the world’s best female jumpers in February, 90 years after men’s ski jumping had its Olympic debut. The Sea to Sky Corridor will play a big role in Tanaka’s performance in Russia: She and her teammates will attend Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) from Jan. 27 until Feb. 1 for their final training camp before heading to the Olympic Games.
WOP has just been appointed National Training Centre for Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined, a title that inspires the organization to look and plan into the future.
“We are excited to launch our new ski jumping program ‘Flight 2022’ this spring,” said John Heilig, WOP sport manager. With that, local children will be introduced to the fascination of ski jumping in a safe and affordable way. Weekend ski jumping camps for children aged eight to 12 are scheduled for March 1 and 2 and 8 and 9 and will enable participants to learn how to jump on small snow bumps. More information on these camps is available under www.whistlerolympicpark.com.
Furthermore, 20- and 40-metre jumps will be built at the park this summer to train beginning jumpers starting next winter season. Maybe there will be participants from the Sea to Sky Corridor in the women’s and men’s jumping competitions at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games!
Kids and parents who want to see up close what ski jumping is like are welcome to cheer on the Canadian national team during their training sessions at WOP next week, daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. (subject to weather conditions). Park admission is $10 per carload.
• XC Training Tip: Descending — Psyched out on downhills? A lack of confidence in descending can really hamper enjoyment.
To improve descending skills, start on a gradual slope with a straight run-out. Ideally, this will be followed by a slight uphill stopping slope. At WOP, the hills leading out of the cross-country stadium are perfect.
Begin by climbing up the hill using a sidestep. Once you have reached a comfortable height, put your poles on the downhill side for support. Keep your ski tips close together and take small steps until you are facing down the slope. From this point, lift your poles and away you go. A good balanced position with knees flexed and hips centred over your ski boots is perfect.
When you master a straight run, you can experiment with a snowplough and a snowplough turn. Another good technique to experiment with is to do a half snowplough with one ski in the track. This technique allows you to use the track to guide the direction of your descent and the snowplough to control your speed.
If you are seriously challenged in the downhill department, a private lesson can really build your confidence and enjoyment.
Silke Jeltsch is an administrator at Whistler Olympic Park. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org