You might think ski jumping is crazy now. Turns out that 30 years ago, it was total madness.

Ski jumping, formerly known as ski flying, has gone through a lot of changes. Traditionally, jumpers would hold their skies straight forward. It turns out that this was incredibly dangerous way to jump as the skiers were highly susceptible to crosswinds and severe injuries were common-place.

This competition in particular was probably the biggest catalyst for the revolution with the change to the V-style a few years later. (Video's from the 1986 World Ski Flying Championships in Kulm)

This was the last competition for both Rolf Aage Berg and Ulf Findeisen as the injuries they sustained during these falls were too severe for them to return to the sport.

At or around the time of this competition, Swedish jumper Jan Boklöv pioneered the V-style in the World Cup, surprising pretty much the entire field by jumping far more consistently and with a much flatter flight curve than anyone jumping the the classic style with parallel skis could accomplish. The rest of the field thought Boklöv rather ridiculous to begin with, but they soon started to see that the V-style or a variant thereof would be the way forward. In the period from 1986 through to the full field using V-style in the 1991/-92 season a lot of jumpers would start jumping with parallel skis held out diagonally to increase the surface area to float on, but this was even more unstable and dangerous than the classic parallel skis, and a lot of jumpers had very dramatic falls, especially in adverse wind conditions, because of this.

With the introduction of the V-style, longer jumps became a lot safer to do almost instantly, and FIS eventually bowed to the pressure and allowed ski flying hills to be built to safely accommodate jumps over 200m. With the old style, the world record was 194 meters (Disputed, as FIS wouldn't allow anyone to measure jumps over 191 meters) but with the bigger hills came bigger jumps and the world record now stands at 246.5m. Interestingly, the world record with the classic style had a takeoff speed of about 116km/h, whereas the current world record was set with a takeoff speed of 100.2km/h.

I'm very glad ski jumping evolved the way it did, as there's no longer that sense of dread every time the wind starts to gust with a jumper on the inrun. It's supposed to be a bit of a dangerous sport, but the 80's really did underline just how much the change to V-style and a safer flight curve was needed.

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