Norway’s pioneering female ski jumper Anette Sagen drew cheers at Holmenkollen Wednesday evening when she became the first person to officially soar off the city’s brand new ski jump. She landed at 106.5 meters and made history, even though a fellow jumper almost ruined the party.
It had been a day of drama at Holmenkollen, after news broke that Olympic jumper Bjørn Einar Romøren had stolen Sagen’s thunder by jumping himself off the new Holmenkollen during test jumping the night before.
Romøren thus became the first person to actually jump off the new Holmenkollen with skis (a base hopper illegally parachuted off the ski jump last week), but his so-called “test jump” landed him a heap of trouble. The popular Sagen had ceremoniously been chosen by city officials to be first, at the opening party Wednesday night, and most felt Romøren spoiled everything.
The mayor, the head of the city council, athletic officials, members of Parliament, sports fans and media commentators all condemned Romøren and the ski jumping bureaucrats at Holmenkollen who allowed him to jump. Since one of them, Roar Gaustad, earlier had told newspaper Aften that he thought Romøren should have been chosen to jump first instead of Sagen, suspicions rose that Romøren’s jump on Tuesday wasn’t simply a coincidence.
Romøren went on the national nightly newscast on NRK, just before Sagen’s official jump, to defend himself. He insisted that his jump was “only a test jump,” and that it was never his intention to take away the honor of being first from Sagen. He has apologized to Sagen, and said on national TV that he was most sorry that the celebrations on Wednesday “wouldn’t amount to the party they should have been.”
Romøren himself was barred from participating, and may even be disqualified from the upcoming World Cup event at Holmenkollen. Norwegian sports chief Clas Brede Bråthen was furious with both Romøren and organizers of Tuesday night’s test jumping. Athletes, he said, are supposed to show “respect, humility and joy” for sport, “and I can’t see that he (Romøren) fulfilled any of those things.”
Sagen herself confirmed that Romøren had apologized to her personally. “What’s done is done,” she said, adding after her successful official jump that “it was a big honor,” and that Romøren’s jump “didn’t mean a thing.”
The new Holmenkollen Ski Jump, meanwhile, has been widely praised for its sleek lines, wind shields, modern lift system and observation platform at the top. The jump, which became wildly expensive at a cost of taxpayers of NOK 1.8 billion, is Oslo’s new landmark, will be floodlit at night and able to be used all year round, for summer jumping as well. It was built to accommodate the Nordic World Championships that will be held in Oslo next year.