Planica – The world’s top ski jumpers will converge on Slovenia’s Planica this week for the Ski Flying World Championships, which has been moved up from March due to the Covid-19 epidemic. The event will be held for the first time without spectators, under floodlights, and under strict anti-epidemic rules.
Last season ended prematurely for ski jumpers and the Ski Flying World Championships was postponed to December. After almost nine months, Slovenia is thus finally hosting the main ski flying event in the world.
Slovenian jumpers will be defending their team silver medal from Germany’s Oberstdorf in 2018, although without spectators, who traditionally pack the stadium below the large hill of the Planica Nordic Centre and create a roaring atmosphere.
Planica under floodlights for the first time, without spectators and under strict ant-epidemic measures
This time, the valley under the Ponce mountains in the north-western corner of Slovenia will be fully closed for spectators, and access to the valley by car will be prohibited. Fans of ski flying will have to watch the ski flyers at home.
This is not the only unusual thing, as it will also be the first time in the history of the Gorišek Brothers’ ski flying hill that a competition will be held under artificial lights. The organisers needed a lot of them, equalling to lighting of two football stadiums in Ljubljana, head of competition Jelko Gros has told the STA.
Immediately after the competition was cancelled in March due to the coronavirus outbreak, the organisers saved around 9,000 cubic metres of snow from the area, which has been preserved to be used for the competition in December.
The organisation is much more difficult than usual, as precautionary measures need to be taken for possible positive Covid-19 tests. For this reason, the event will be organised with the smallest possible number of staff.
Gros will be heading a competition at Planica for the last time, and his current assistant Aljoša Dolhar will take over from him for the World Cup season finale next March.
“Due to coronavirus, we have managed the event in a way that enables it to continue even if some of were to test positive or had to be quarantined due to contact with an infected person,” Gros described the problems related to Covid-19.
All participants will need to be tested, and the area will be divided into two zones. As many as 80 staff will organise the competition in the green (safe) zone or the snowflake, as the quarantine bubble is called in the winter sport circles.
The remaining staff will be in the grey zone, where they will be tested with rapid tests performed by the Jesenice general hospital. Persons from the two zones are not expected to be in contact, except in special circumstances.
Slovenian “eagles” have eight medals from world championships, but none from Planica
Slovenian ski jumpers have so far won eight medals at the Ski Flying World Championships, but none of them comes from Planica, which will this year host the event for the seventh time after 1972, 1979, 1985, 1994, 2004 and 2010.
The first medal (silver) was won by Primož Ulaga in Oberstdorf in 1988, who was followed by Urban Franc in Kulm in 1996 (bronze), and Robert Kranjec in Vikersund in 2012 (gold). It was there that Kranjec and his compatriots Jernej Damjan, Jurij Tepeš and Jure Šinkovec won the team bronze.
Two years later in Harrachov, Peter Prevc won bronze, and the most successful Slovenian ski jumper ever also won the world champion title in Kulm in 2016. At the latest championship in Oberstdorf, Slovenians continued the medal streak by returning home with the team silver in the line-up Peter and Domen Prevc, Anže Semenič and Jernej Damjan.
Slovenians ski flyers are determined to finish on the podium in Planica, with head coach Gorazd Bertoncelj having already selected the competitors from the ranks of the home nation – Anže Lanišek, Bor Pavlovčič, Žiga Jelar, Peter Prevc, Timi Zajc and Domen Prevc.
Slovenians are not really in an excellent shape, but large ski flying hills have always served as a “wake up” for them, which is something they are counting on this year.
Many unknowns about competition as coronavirus affects ski jumping
Ski jumpers have not been spared the coronavirus pandemic in the new season, and Ski Jumping World Cup director Sandro Pertile will miss the event as he has tested positive. It is not known yet what the competition will actually be like.
Having the most problems is the Austrian team, where the nine positive jumpers include Stefan Kraft, the world record holder (253.5 metres in Vikersund in 2017) and the World Cup winner from last season.
Four of them have since returned negative tests, including Kraft. The decision on who will represent Austria is expected to be taken by Wednesday.
On the other hand, the Norwegian team is coming to Slovenia in an excellent shape, after winning the team gold and the individual gold medal (Daniel-André Tande) at the last world championship in 2018. This time, the role of favourite will be played by Halvor Egner Granerud, who has won the last three World Cup events.
Having entered the season on a roll are the Germans with Markus Eisenbichler, the winner of the last event held at the Gorišek Brothers hill. Poland’s Kamil Stoch, Dawid Kubacki and Piotr Žyla, who missed the last World Cup event in Russia and are training for the world championship at home, are also known for their aptitude for long flights.
Planica – from humble beginnings to Nordic paradise (chronology)
Ski jumping started developing early in Planica, starting with the construction of a 20-metre hill in 1930. With the help of talented local engineers, it grew into a haven of ski jumping records, a title it held for decades and which it is now trying to reclaim, and finally into a cutting-edge centre of Nordic sports.
1930 – Planica gets the first 20-metre hill.
1932 – The Ljubljana sports club Ilirija commissions the construction of an 80-metre hill from engineer Stanko Bloudek, but in the next year a plan for a 90-metre hill by Ivan Rožman is picked over Bloudek’s project.
1933 – The 90-metre hill is completed in December, with construction financed by the engineer who designed it.
February 1934 – The first official event, the national championship of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, is held. Franc Palme sets the first record with a jump of 60 metres.
March 1934 – The Norwegian Birger Ruud jumps 92 metres at the first international event in Planica, a new world record.
March 1935 – Four consecutive new world records are set at the second international competition in Planica. The Norwegian Reidar Andersen makes the longest jump of 99 metres.
1935 – Engineer Bloudek reconfigures the hill profile, allowing for longer jumps. He remains the chief engineer in Planica until 1959 and the hill becomes popularly known as the Bloudek Giant hill.
15 March 1936 – Austrian Sepp Bradl becomes the first man in history to jump over 100 metres, hitting the 101.5-metre mark. The International Ski Federation (FIS) bans official jumps in Planica, arguing the hill is not safe.
1938 – FIS allows jumps in Planica again, but only for study purposes. In March, Sepp Bradl jumps to a new world record of 107 metres.
March 1941 – Five world records are set. The German Rudi Gering lands the longest jump of the event, 118 metres.
March 1947 – After a six-year hiatus due to WWII, Planica hosts an international event again. Slovenian Rudi Finžgar wins with a jump of 102 metres, becoming the first Slovenian to surpass the 100-metre mark.
March 1948 – Fritz Tschannen of Switzerland lands a new world record of 120 metres.
March 1949 – A new 90-metre hill designed by Bloudek opens.
1952 – Bloudek builds three smaller hills, which are in use until they are replaced in 2013.
March 1954 – The first international competition is held on the reconfigured 120-metre hill, which now has a K-point of 125 metres.
March 1957 – The giant hill is enlarged yet again and the German Helmut Recknagel sets a new hill record of 124 metres.
March 1960 – A TV tower is inaugurated as Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito attends the event. Recknagel improves the hill record yet again, jumping 127 metres.
March 1966 – Jiri Raška from Czechoslovakia improves the hill record with a 130-metre jump.
1967 – Construction of a new ski-flying hill with a K-point of 153 begins according to plans by engineers Lado and Janez Gorišek.
March 1969 – Five world records are broken at the inaugural event on the new Brothers Gorišek hill. The longest, a 165-metre jump, is achieved by the German Manfred Wolf.
March 1972 – The first ever Ski Flying World Championship is organised in Planica and is won by Swiss jumper Walter Steiner. The same year, Planica loses its record primacy, as the German Heinz Wossipiwo jumps 169 metres in Oberstdorf.
March 1977 – Bogdan Norčič flies 181 metres as a warm-up competitor, which would be a world record if he did not touch the snow with his hands. Austrian Reinhold Bachler wins the event with a jump of 172 metres.
March 1979 – German Klaus Ostwald equalises the world record of 176 metres set three years before by Toni Innauer in Oberstdorf.
March 1980 – Planica hosts a World Cup event for the first time.
March 1987 – Until 1986 world records are alternately set in Kulm, Planica, Harachow and Oberstdorf, but in 1987 Planica reclaims the crown with a 194-metre jump by Ralph Gebstedt and the giant hill retains the title of record holder until 2005.
March 1994 – The 200-metre mark is exceeded for the first time in history as Toni Nieminen of Finland lands a 203-metre jump.
March 1998 – Primož Peterka wins the overall World Cup title as the first ever Slovenian to achieve the feat, with the celebration attracting a crowd of tens of thousands of spectators.
December 2001 – The ageing 125-K hill collapses.
March 2005 – The Norwegian Bjorn Einar Romoren sets the last world record to be held in Planica as he lands a 239-metre jump. The record lasts until 2011, when Johan Remen Evensen improves it to 243 metres in Vikersund, Norway.
October 2012 – A new large hill (HS139) opens on the site of the collapsed Bloudek Giant hill alongside a new medium hill (HS104).
2014 – Planica hosts the women’s World Cup for the first time and the World Cup finals, at which Peter Prevc wins the final event of the season but cedes the overall World Cup win to Kamil Stoch of Poland.
March 2015 – The giant hill reopens after a two-year renovation. It is supposed to allow jumps in excess of 250 metres, a mark that Peter Prevc approaches at the first event on the hill by jumping 248.5 metres.
December 2015 – The Planica Nordic Centre, a state-of-the-art training and competition facility for Nordic sports, opens four years after the start of construction.
March 2016 – Peter Prevc caps a record-breaking season by winning the overall World Cup and the ski flying standings, adding to the title of world champion and winner of the prestigious Four Hills Tournament.
March 2017 – Poland’s Kamil Stoch lands a 251.5-metre jump but touches the ground with his back side. The referees designate the jump as valid, making it the official record-mark of the giant hill.
March 2018 – Slovenia’s Robert Kranjec becomes the first person in history with 200 jumps over 200 metres after landing a 238-metre jump in the qualifying. Austrian Gregor Schlierenzauer jumps 253.5 metres, equalling the world record, but he touches the ground with both hands so the record is not admitted.