Ski Jumping

Although informal ski jumping had taken place for decades, the first officially measured jump (30.5 m) was made by Sondre Norheim in Norway in 1860. About 20 years later, Scandinavian miners and lumbermen brought the sport to western Canada, where it flourished. In 1891 local Scandinavians formed a ski club in Revelstoke, BC, to promote ski-jumping competition. Although it lasted only a few years, it provided excellent jumping meets in its rivalry with neighbouring Rossland, BC. The Rossland winter carnival of 1898, for example, attracted thousands to watch the local hero Olaus Jeldness win Canada's first ski-jumping championship. Over the next 25 years ski jumping was one of Canada's most popular winter spectator sports. Large crowds watched jumpers hurtle down mountainsides in the Rockies, down large wooden trestles on the Prairies, down Mont Royal in the heart of Montréal, and down the "cliffs" of Rockcliffe Park in Ottawa. In 1919 Ted Devlin set up the Cliffside Ski Club in Ottawa to challenge Sigurd Lockeberg's Ottawa Ski Club. During several years of intense but friendly competition, jumping reached its all-time peak of popularity. Almost 10 000 spectators gathered at the Fairy Lake jump (near Hull, Qué), designed by Gunnar Sjelderup, to watch an international field compete in a meet presided over by the governor general. Somersaults over the jump, and even a tandem somersault performed by two Dartmouth College (New Hampshire) students, added a spectacular element, anticipating today's freestyle skiing.

Although the newly formed Canadian Amateur Ski Association held its first national championships in Montréal in 1921 (won by E. Sundberg), the centre of Canadian jumping soon shifted back west. Resurrected in 1914, the Revelstoke Ski Club became internationally famous through the efforts of its founder, Sigurd Halverson, and Nels Nelson, a young local athlete. After many years of near misses, Nelson set a world amateur record of 68.3 m in 1925 and went on to coach several other world-famous Canadian-born jumpers, including Bob Lymbourne, who jumped a world-record 87.5 m in 1933.

The Nordic combined event - ski jumping and CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING - has been held internationally and at the Olympics since 1924 but Canada has yet to perform well internationally.

From 1933 to the 1970s, ski jumping assumed a much lower profile, as alpine SKIING captured most of the public attention. Strong local programs persisted across the country, however, and suddenly pushed the sport back into prominence in 1979 when Ottawa's Horst BULAU won the world junior championship, followed closely by Thunder Bay's Steve COLLINS in 1980. The two went on to many World Cup wins and stimulated Canadian public interest in the sport before their retirement.

Horst Bulau is the only Canadian to finish in the top 8 at an Olympic Winter Games, placing 7th in 1988 at Calgary.

Canada's ski jump athletes couldn't top Bulau's 1988 7th-place finish at the following Olympic Games, in 1992 at Albertville, and Canada did not send a ski jumping team to the Olympics again until 2006. However, as a result of an injection of money into the program by CODA (the Calgary Olympic Development Committee) and other national organizations, CODA and Ski Jump Canada officials have seen many rising stars begin to place in international competition. In addition, the nation's premier jumping complex at CODA's flagship Olympic legacy, Canada Olympic Park, was completely rebuilt to bring it up to international competition standards.

Canadian athletes have not been winners on the international stage in ski jumping for years. No Canadians placed in the top 3 in World Cups before the 2006 Games held in Turin, Italy. However, Canadian Katie Willis delivered a stellar performance and placed 4th at the 2007 World Cup. Canada, Norway and the US are the leading nations in women's ski jumping.

The International Olympic Committee outraged ski jumpers worldwide by excluding women's ski jumping from the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Games. Officials declared the sport not yet sufficiently developed for inclusion in the Olympics; still, men's ski jumping is considered a legitimate Olympic event. In 2008 a group of women athletes sued the IOC for discrimination on the basis of gender. According to IOC officials there must be at least 2 world championships held in a sport before it may be considered sufficiently developed to participate in the Olympic Games. Officials and athletes alike hope that Canadian women's ski jumping will return to the Olympic Winter Games by 2014.