It was only two years ago when Ryoyu Kobayashi won all four competitions at the Four Hills Tournament. Last year, too, the Japanese started the ski jumping Grand Slam with a victory in Oberstdorf. This winter, on the tour that starts on Monday, hardly anyone expects the high-flyer – Kobayashi is just 16th in the overall World Cup. His unique flying style no longer works as it did before, and that has to do with the rule changes introduced before this season . The wedges in the shoe, which are important for a perfect position in flight, are now limited in size and must be symmetrical on both feet.
“It’s extremely good that the rule is there. The Kobayashi had things in it that were boundless, ”says three-time world champion Markus Eisenbichler, unusually frank. The Bavarian, who could only win one World Cup competition before this winter, already has two victories on the account. The Norwegian Halvor Egnar Granerud, who appeared out of nowhere, even five. The new wedge rules have shaken up the ski jumping circus. Karl Geiger, who finished second in the overall World Cup last winter and new ski flying world champion, also had to change his material: “The wedges that I used were no longer compliant. But that’s a good thing, after all, it has made ski jumping safer. “
That was exactly the main reason for the rule adjustments. “The lower legs of the jumpers were led forward inwards through the shoes and wedges. This allowed the skis to be laid beautifully flat in the air in the V-style, ”explains German ski jumping legend Martin Schmitt. Depending on the physiological conditions, the wedges on both feet were also of different sizes. This led to more stability and aerodynamic advantages in aviation. On the other hand, it crashed all the more frequently when returning to the ground, because the extreme choice of materials had made a physiologically normal landing extremely difficult. There was a series of severe cruciate ligament knee injuries, which affected, among others, the Olympic ski jumping champions Andreas Wellinger and Severin Freund as well as Stephan Leyhe in the German team.
The smaller and symmetrical wedges now ensure that you can no longer jump out like a catapult like Kobayashi in the past and lie down on the air cushion. A strong jump has become more important again. In addition, there is the extremely important psychological component in the highly sensitive sport of ski jumping. “You have less to worry about, everyone has the same material now. You can save yourself the worry, ”says Eisenbichler.
The latest rule change is in a series of many that have changed the sport and its winners forever. In 2004, for example, the body mass index rule (BMI) was introduced. It was the reaction to the tendency to starve in ski jumping, which, for example, drove the last German tour winner Sven Hannawald (2002) into anorexia. At 1.84 meters tall, he weighed only 64 kg. Those who are light and have a larger wing fly better. Therefore, jumpers who are below the prescribed BMI of 21 have long had to use shorter skis. Extreme lightweights have had a harder time since then.
The material was still tinkered with: The Swiss Simon Ammann landed the greatest coup. Before the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, he developed a curved binding rod that enabled a better flight position. Ammann won gold twice, but quickly lost its advantage and lost its high-flyer position as soon as the competition was able to use the new technology. The wedges were now the latest evolution in Formula 1 in winter, in which the tinkering will certainly continue even after the most recent rule changes.