Ski jumps pass muster 

Wind causes minor delays, but test events called a success

click to enlarge Ready to Launch Balthasar Schneider of the triumphant Austrian team heads down the in-run on Friday. Photo by Justa Jeskova, www.coastphoto.com.
  • Ready to Launch Balthasar Schneider of the triumphant Austrian team heads down the in-run on Friday. Photo by Justa Jeskova, www.coastphoto.com.

Some of the top ski jumpers in the world, representing more than 10 countries, were at Whistler Olympic Park this past weekend to compete in Continental Cup competition — the second test event held at the 2010 ski jumping facility, following North American and Canadian championship events in January.

Ordinarily some of the athletes and teams might have passed on a Continental Cup competition, but many didn’t want to miss the chance to get in a few jumps at the 2010 venue.

As expected, the strong European teams took home all of the medals, but the Canadians aren’t too far behind.

Both competitions took place on the K125 long hill, and jumpers were sailing well past the 125 mark.

Scoring ski jumping is complicated, with points for distance and style, but generally on a K125 long hill competition any score over 240 is considered very good. This past weekend six jumpers finished with more than 240 points on Saturday, and five on Sunday.

The day one winner was Bastian Kaltenboeck of Austria with a two run score of 259.4 points, followed by Thomas Lobben of Norway, and Austria’s Stefan Thurnbichler. The next two spots also went to Austrian skiers, with Nicolas Fettner in fourth and Daniel Lackner fifth.

The top Canadians were Stefan Read and Gregory Baxter of Calgary, placing 18 th and 19 th respectively.

On the second day, Martin Cikl of the Czech Republic upset the Austrian team with his first place score of 269.1, more than seven points ahead of Martin Hoellwarth and Daniel Lackner of Austria, who tied for second place.

Cikl was excited by his finish.

“I’m very happy,” he said. “This was my first first in Continental Cups, and to win on the Olympic course was very nice. Canada is a nice country, and this hill is very modern and nice to jump on.”

The Canadians did a little better on the second day, with Gregory Baxter 15 th with 232.7 points, and Stefan Read 17th in 228.6. Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes, Trevor Morrice and Eric Mitchell also cracked the top-30 finishing 23 rd , 25 th and 29 th respectively.

Brent Morrice, head of Ski Jumping Canada, said the results were encouraging.

“The guys are literally just inches away from the podium at this point,” he said. “We could be better, but we are moving in the right direction.

“Stefan and Gregory are heading back to Europe next week, so we’re going to look at what happens over there and figure out what we have to do to get these guys a little closer to the podium — they’re not far off, we just need to tweak our program a little bit. With a little work I think we’ll get there.”

Ski Jumping Canada plans to bring the national team back to Whistler Olympic Park in April to get in some more on-snow training, before moving into the summer season.

Cathy Priestner Allinger, the executive vice president for sport, Paralympic Games and venue management for the Vancouver Organizing Committee of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games (VANOC) said the venue passed the test.

“Having good weather helps a lot, obviously, but overall we just got the venue up and running in late November and early December and we’re thrilled where’s it’s at,” she said. “We’ve got some great staff and great people, and the local organizing committee (Callaghan Valley Local Organizing Committee) has been great putting these events on and finding volunteers.”

Although some more challenging weather would have helped VANOC to properly test the site, Priestner Allinger says there were still lessons to be learned.

“We do a debriefing after every event we do, look at what works and what didn’t work as well,” she said. “We did have a few small delays here because of the wind, and the more we learn about the climate for this area the better we are. We’re analyzing anything and everything, to apply our learnings to the next event.”

The venue also hosted a FIS event earlier in the week on the Normal Hill (K90 jump) for development level athletes.

Two contests were originally planned, but the first day of competition was delayed when teams arrived without their equipment.

The first contest was an Austrian sweep, with Nicolas Fettner first, Markus Eggenhofer second and Daniel Lackner third. Gregory Baxter was the top Canadian in eighth place, while Stefan Read placed 10 th , Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes 11 th and Trevor Morrice 12 th .

The podium was similar on the second day, this time with Eggenhofer first and Fettner second. Stefan Read was eighth, Gregory Baxter 10 th and Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes 11 th .

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