History of the Ladies Ski Jumping

History of the ladies ski jumping

Most people still remain genuinely convinced that ladies ski jumping is still a relatively young discipline. This is not at all true. Women have been jumping ever since the discipline emerged in Norway. Sure enough, the first documented female jump is dated “as late” as 1911, but confirmed Norwegian sources place the year 1863 as the year of the first female ski jumper appearance! The first official world record in ladies ski jumping was made by an Austrian countess Paula Lamberg from Kitzbühel and it measured 22 metres. It is worth mentioning that our heroine jumped in…. a skirt! Meanwhile in the less liberal Norway, girls would start in local competitions. They faced a difficult task, for to compete one was forced to trickery- they would actually dress up as boys to conceal their gender! In the years between the great wars, ski jumping was popular with Scandinavian women. In 1926 a Norwegian, Olga Balstad-Eggen, became famous for reaching the distance of 26 metres. In the 30s Hilda Braskerud and Johanne Kolstad would also jump. The second one reached the impressive result of 71,5 in 1938. Johanne is the legend of Norwegian ski jumping. She was most famous in USA where she gained the nickname of “The queen of skies”. Sadly enough, she never did get the chance to perform on the royal ski jumping hill in Holmenkollen. The official standing of the Norwegian Ski jumping Association was that a female jumper would have diminished the prestige of Holmenkollen! In the 50s girls were effectively persuaded out of doing sports by spreading the so-called “scientific” theory that girls jumping after 12 would later on face the risk of becoming infertile! This rich story caused female ski jumping to be forsaken for a good couple of years. The next great event in female ski jumping occurred almost 40 years later. It was then that another Norwegian, Anita Wold, took the new unofficial female world record of 97,5 metres in Sapporo. She was quite the sensation in her native country. What’s more, she was the first jumper to be allowed to start in Holmenkollen. The magical threshold of 100 meters was finally overcome by a Fin female skijumper, Tjina Lehtoli in 1981. Her distance of 110 meters remained the world female record up till 1994.

The next chapter female ski jumping history is chiefly connected to the Austrian Eva Gangster. She deserves praise for her determination in pursuing her ski jumping ambitions, even though no female ski jumping competitions were being organized at the beginning of the 90s. Although ladies were allowed into male competitions, it was only off the competition or as prejumpers. The aspiring sportswomen had the chance to present herself to the broad audience during the Four Hills Tournament or the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, where she performed as a prejumper. Barely a 16-year old, she made the new female record- 113,5 meters, and in 1997 on the flying hill of Kulm in Bad Mittendorf she made the jump of 167 meters. On the 22th of January, 1998 a great breakthrough took place. For the first time World Female Championship was organized in St. Moritz on a K-95 Olympic ski jumping hill during Junior Championship. The winner of this historical event was the Fin Heli Pormell. During the season of 1998-1999 the inauguration of the FIS Ladies Grand Prix season took place (and in 2004-2005 the inauguration of FIS Continental Cup). Ever since then, every year a series of ladies competitions takes place. On the first official ladies competition under the sponsorship of FIS triumphed Pomell. In 1999 the first “FIS Ladies Grand Tournee” took place. The rank of the best competitor was extended to Austrian Sandra Kaiser. During the second Grand Tournee in 2000, for the first time in history a female team ski jumping competition took place, won by ladies from Austria.

The next crucial event was the consent to create an individual sports discipline of ladies ski jumping for the World Championship in Liberec. On 26th May 2006 the International Federation of Skiing included it into the World Championship programme. In 2009 Lindsey Van from the United States became the first female world champion in ski jumping.

Within only a couple of years a great change took place in ladies ski jumping. What’s most important, the attitude of FIS changed, which finally began to consider female jumpers as fully fledged competitors, registered in the Federation according to normal procedures. Competitions have been created during which ladies can compete against each other and which give them a purpose, to continuously expand their skills and increase performances.

In the 2011-2012 season FIS launched the first edition of Ladies’ World Cup. The first FIS Grand Prix season took place in summer 2012. On the next year, FIS World Championships program was enlarged by the mixed team event.

Finally, in 2014 female ski jumpers can finally participate at Olympic Winter Games. The normal hill competition in Sochi was won by the German athlete, Carina Vogt. She later became also the first athlete, who became the world champion two times in a row (Falun 2015 and Lahti 2017).

The first seasons of FIS World Cup created a huge ski jumping star – Sara Takanashi. The Japanese athlete already won 4 times the overall standings. She also became the winner of 57 individual competitions, what is the bigger number than the amount of victories reached by the best male ski jumper – Gregor Schlierenzauer from Austria (53).

The recent years gave to us the next great female champion. Maren Lundby from Norway became the first athlete, who achieved gold medals at Olympic Winter Games (Pyeongchang 2018) and World Championships (Seefeld 2019) and also won the Crystal Globe – the main trophy of FIS World Cup. Lundby is also the first female athlete, who became the winner of FIS World Cup overall standings three times in a row (2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20). On the male side, only Adam Malysz from Poland reached the same success (2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03).

The future of ladies’ ski jumping looks bright. In 2021, athletes will debut on the large hill at FIS World Championships. One year later the olympic program will be enlarged by the mixed team competition. It looks that also ladies ski flying events can be just a matter of time…