The very first event of Winter Olympics 2010 was Men’s individual ski jumping and we were there. We started our day at 3:45 am, yes 3:45 am. At 4:45 we caught a cab to the BC Institute of Technology in Burnaby to catch an Olympic transit bus to Whistler (you can’t drive to Whistler unless you can show proof of parking). Attired in long johns, sweaters, jeans, parkas, hats, gloves, sneakers and two pairs of socks for me, Jim and I boarded the 5:20 am bus to Whistler.
The “3 hour” bus ride only took 2 hours so we arrived at the park at 7:20 – way before our 10 am start time. Except, the start time was actually 9 a.m. (trial runs, not listed on ticket or on schedule). The time flew as we hiked the 500 meters to the arena, took photos, stood in line for coffee and a chai latte and braved the port-o-lets.
At about 8:30 we positioned ourselves at the front of the “standing only” section for the trial runs. The trial runs are key for figuring out how the run is playing speed wise and adjusting accordingly. In about 45 minutes, 61 athletes made the run down the ski jump. Their distances ranged from 89 to 107 meters! If you never thought humans could fly, these men proved you wrong. With hangtimes of 7-8 seconds, they soared.
At 10 am the qualifying rounds began. Of the 61 jumpers, only 50 would remain to compete in the first round of the ski jump. The jumpers jumped in order of world ranking, with the lowest ranked going first. Of the 3 Americans, 2 barely made the cut-off. Canada didn’t fare much better. This is a sport dominated, and I mean DOMINATED, by Austria, the Finns and one kick-ass Swiss. We quickly realized that the top jumpers had been saving it for this run as they hit distances of 103 to 108 (the farthest marked line is 106 but they have sensors in place for more accurate reads and beyond the line) in perfect form. The greatest part of seeing a qualifying round live is you get to see what the difference is between the up and comers at the bottom of the rankings and the veterans and superstars. In this case, the difference was 10-18 meters and clutch landings. It will be fun to see who wins the Gold but I’m betting on the Swiss, because that man could give Peter Pan a run for his fairy dust.