Ski Jumping in Poland – The history of the country’s national sport

    The first ski jumping competition in Poland was held on January 19, 1908 in Sławsk, in western-central Poland. Back in those days the record jumps were 8 to 20 meters long and nowadays jumpers are capable of distances of around 200 meters. The turning point occurred in the 1920s when Poles joined international competition, and in 1925 the first hill with European parameters was opened in Zakopane – a large ski jumping hill, known as “Wielka Krokiew”.

    Stanisław Marusarz was the most prominent jumpers from the interwar period. He had an impressively long, thirty-year-long sports career and was hailed as sportsman of the year in 1938. Ski jumpers back then jumped on traditional wooden downhill skis reconstructed by carpenters. The downhill skis had one groove in the middle, the carpenter had to redesign them by adding two grooves on both sides. The jumping equipment was held together by adhesive tape and medical patches on the skis. The skis usually cracked during landing, so to prevent this jumpers would tape a thick medical patch on them. 

    It was mandatory for ski jumpers to wear elegant attire then. Although today it is hard to believe, the athletes competed in ties or bow ties, elegant pants and hand tailored sweaters, some of the jumpers attached to their pants small pompons so that they fluttered pleasantly during the flight. One particularly interesting component to ski jumping is the manner of the jumpers movement. During the competition, the jumpers performed smooth circular motions with their hands. Stanisław Marusarz has developed a unique move which Scandinavian and alpine skiers copied. Poland had a few other ski jumpers that achieved podiums among them were; Bronisław Czech, Zdzisław Hryniewiecki, Henryk Mückenbrunn. However in 1972 Wojciech Fortuna won an Olympic gold medal in Sapporo. He jumped a record length of 111 meters and earned 130.4 points.

    In the 1970’s athletes began to jump in goggles, but still without helmets and on composite skis. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that the preferred position of most jumpers became leaning far forward from the ankles with knees straight and skis held parallel, inclined slightly upward. This position minimized wind resistance and contributed an aerodynamic lifting effect to increase the length of the jump. In the mid-1980s, however, Swedish jumper Jan Boklöv introduced a new technique that provided even more lift: the V style. After being ridiculed for his nontraditional style, Boklöv was later the model for World Cup ski jumpers after his first-place win in the 1988–89 World Cup competition.  

    In 1995 Adam Małysz made his debut at the World Cup competition in Innsbruck. During his career, he stood on the Olympic podium four times, won the title of individual world champion four times and also four – World Cup (three times in a row). In 2001, Poland went ski jump crazy and this fever has endured until this day. In 2002, during the transmission of the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, 14 million Poles turned on the TV to watch Polish team winning more medals.

    In 2014 after 42 years Kamil Stoch won a gold medal for Poland at the Sochi Olympics. As the new season 2018/2019 begins we hope that the Polish team that includes Kamil Stoch, Maciej Kot, Dawid Kubacki, Piotr Żyła, Jakub Wolny and Stefan Hula with their coach Stefan Horngacher will keep on winning and making Poland proud.

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