Ski jumpers ready to fly at Vikersund

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UPDATED: The world’s best ski jumpers have gathered at Vikersund, southwest of Oslo, for this weekend’s FIS Ski Flying World Championships, but they won’t just be flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Years of hard work and training are behind every one of the young men taking part.

Norway's huge ski jumping hill at Vikersund is the site of this weekend's World Championships in ski flying, and the weather forecast was good. Around 16,000 tickets have been sold for the events on Saturday. PHOTO: Tore Fossen / Vikersund.no

Among them was Norwegian jumper Tom Hilde, who took a bad fall at a major international competition earlier this year but defied the odds to recover in time for the championships at Vikersund. His national ski jumping team colleague Bjørn Einar Romøren had told newspaper Dagsavisen that Hilde would be “the joker,” but Hilde ended up being relegated as a test jumper, after failing to fly far enough in a qualifying round Thursday evening. That cost him a spot in the competition itself. Hilde was disappointed but kept smiling, knowing full well that it’s all part of the game.

All the ski jumpers seemed to agree that ski flying offers the ultimate dream, with the possibility of soaring more than 240 meters though the air off a huge structure like Vikersund. Now the goal is to fly more than 250 meters, which is said to be completely possible at the recently rebuilt Vikersund hill.

Anders Bardal was Norway’s favorite as the jumpers headed into the first qualifying rounds on Thursday evening. Their new coach Alexander Stöckl, along with trainer Magnus Brevig and sports chief Clas Brede Bråthen, had a good stock of talent from which to choose for their final four-man team. Bardal was assured a spot, with the others going to Romøren and newcomers Rune Velta of Lommedalen, outside Oslo, and Anders Fannemel of Hornindal in Sogn og Fjordane. Velta, age 22, landed at 221.5 meters and Fannemel, age 20, at 211 meters. so both outshone veterans Bardal and Romøren, who jumped 166 and 191 meters respectively.

Johan Remen Evensen, who set a world record in ski flying off the huge Vikersund hill last year when he landed at 246.5 meters, had also been in the running. Evensen, though, surprised the ski jumping world by withdrawing earlier this week because he tired of having to meet the eternal weight requirements for the sport and didn’t think he deserved a spot. He could still end his career at Vikersund on a high note, given last year’s record jump.

One of Norway’s most popular jumpers, Anders Jacobsen, is also poised for a comeback after dropping out this past season. He admitted he missed hurling himself off ski jumps and took part in some test-jumping at Vikersund on Wednesday. His performance was impressive, as he jumped the farthest of all participants, landing at 183 meters.

Jacobsen then told the coaches that he wanted to re-join the team and Stöckl, who’s Austrian, welcomed him, telling newspaper Aftenposten that he wants to start working with Jacobsen “immediately, so that I can clarify for him how I think. I want him to be with us for all physical training from here on.” The goal they all have in mind is the next Winter Olympics at Sotsji in Russia in 2014.

Meanwhile, they’re all focused on Vikersund right now, which is ranked as the largest ski jump in the world and the site of many world records. Jumpers hit speeds of more than 100 kilometers per hour on the way down.

On Friday, the individual jumpers who survived the qualifying round would fly in two rounds starting at 4:30pm and again on Saturday starting at 4pm. Team competition would take place on Sunday, with test jumping starting around noon and competition from 2pm. Official training and test jumping would also take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons from around 3pm.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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