Planica – The ski jumping hill at Planica is hosting the Ski Flying World Championships this weekend as the cradle of ski flying, where humans achieved the first ever ski jumps over 100 and 200 metres. One of the designers of the hill, Janez Gorišek, hopes that a new world record could still be set there and return “home”.
Designed and constructed in 1969 by the the brothers Lado and Janez Gorišek, the name of whom it bears, the legendary large hill at Planica has been breaking new ground in ski flying ever since.
The very first jump from the Brothers Gorišek hill was made on 6 March 1969 by Miro Oman, and the first official competition was organised on 21 March the same year. The world record was broken as many as four times by the end of that year.
Gorišek was not there to see the first flight, as he was just returning from Libya, where he supervised reconstruction efforts following an earthquake that had hit the country.
“I was returning from Africa when the very first jump was made, so I missed it, as I was still on the bus. But I did not miss the first competition. They sat me down with [Yugoslav President] Tito. It is hard to describe the feeling,” he said.
Gorišek managed competitions at Planica for 25 years and he admits that even today he gets overwhelmed with emotions when he watches ski jumpers brave the hill in the valley in the north-western corner of Slovenia.
So far, a total of 28 world records were set in Planica, and Gorišek would like to see the record return to Slovenia again.
He has designed around one hundred ski jumping and ski flying hills, including those for the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo. He also assisted in the reconstruction of the hills in Kulm, Oberstdorf, Vikersund and Harrachov.
“It was easier to break records than it will be in the future,” he said at a ceremony in Ljubljana in February that remembered the first ski flights at Planica.
After 1985, world records were being broken only at Planica all the way until 2011, when the ski flying hill in Vikersund, Norway, was reconstructed, with the help of Janez Gorišek and his son Sebastjan.
It was precisely in Vikersund in 2015 that Slovenian Peter Prevc became the first human in history to fly over the 250-metre mark.
Gorišek’s wish is that the world record returns to Planica, as it was the Gorišek Brothers hill that kept the record for decades. The current record is held by Vikersund, where Austrian Stefan Kraft landed at 253.5 metres in 2017.
A year later, Austrian Gregor Schlierenzauer was close to the record at Planica, jumping at 253.5 metres but also touching the ground with both hands for the result to be disqualified.
In the eyes of Gorišek, the record was nevertheless equalled at Planica, but he also believes that there is some room for new records.
In the finals of the 2018/19 World Cup season at Planica, Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi was very close to the record, landing at 252 metres on 24 March 2019 to score the new official record for the ski flying hill on its 50th anniversary.
Last season ended prematurely for ski jumpers, so Planica will host two major events this winter – the first is the Ski Flying World Championships this week, and the second will be the Ski Jumping World Cup season finale next March.