ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA (Reuters) – The Winter Olympic ski-jumping competition will get underway on Saturday with women competitors enjoying their increasing presence in the sport, having joined the party only in 2014, but seeking more representation.
The first ski jumping medals will be awarded in the women’s normal hill event, and, for the first time, there is a mixed team event slotted in alongside the men’s normal hill, large hill and team events.
“It’s getting stronger and stronger, we are very happy that it’s going this way, that we have more competitions, more competitions on big hills,” Germany’s Katharina Althaus said on Friday after morning training that was cut from three to two attempts due to high winds.
“We also have two events at the Olympic Games now. I think it’s the right direction and I hope for more,” said Althaus, who called it a day after only one jump because she felt so comfortable. I’m very excited about the mixed team competition here. It’s great for our sport. We (Germany) are a very strong team, so it’s great to have two chances to win a medal here.”
Althaus’s prospects of improving on her individual silver medal performance from four years ago have been boosted considerably by the absence of Norway’s Pyeongchang champion Maren Lundby, who has opted not to defend her title, and Austria’s World Cup leader Marita Kramer, who was ruled out by a positive COVID test on the eve of the Games, but she knows that “on the day” anything can happen.
“There are a few more good girls, very good girls like (Japan’s) Sara Takanashi and the Slovenian girls, so it’s not so easy,” she said.
One of those Slovenians, Ursa Bogataj, also enjoyed herself as the sun shone on Friday and the temperatures rose to a balmy -16 degrees Celsius having dipped as low as -23 earlier in the week.
“The hill is very nice,” she said. “First of all you have to jump well – and then you like it. Tomorrow you have to jump well and be lucky and that’s all.”
Bogataj also welcomed women’s growing footprint in the sport at Olympic level but was hoping for more. “It’s getting better, but we are a little bit sad that we didn’t have a women’s team competition, but maybe we’ll get it in the next Olympics,” she said.
“Big hill and team competitions – it will be very good.”
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Shri Navaratnam)