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Luis on Ski Jumping Hill-Tournament: Go far or go home

on 2014-11-28

Once again this year, our columnist Luis Holuch has been on a journey. In this recent episode of his column “Luis on Ski Jumping Hill-Tournament”, the 19-year-old Eurosport trainee is telling about an international press trip he joined in the final stage of his internship and how ski flying feels like. We wish you a lot of fun at reading this adrenergic episode!

Luis on Ski Jumping Hill Tournament

By Ski Jumping Hill Archive author and photographer Luis Holuch

I knew it before that this weekend was not supposed to be a normal weekend in my Eurosport-time, mainly due to the fact that I would work. Two days before the start of the trip, I received my Eurosport-uniform, consisting of jacket, trousers and fleece pullover that I would have to wear all the weekend long. The clothing felt incredibly good and was my identifying feature. Even this has been a total special feeling for me.

On Friday morning 9.30 a.m., I tool the S-Bahn (suburban train) to Munich Airport. My motto was “rather being 30 minutes too early than five minutes too late” – everyone knows how stressful times at Airports could be. I did not know the Airport Munich yet, so I had to orientate myself first. But there have not been any troubles for me, neither at the baggage drop off or at the security check, so I arrived at my gate one hour before boarding time. I listened to some music and read an article in a new media paper. Suddenly, my iPhone rang; my Italian colleague Simona was calling and searched for me. She was standing on the opposite side in a coffee bar and talked to some of our guests. Shortly, before I packed my things into my bag, a tall blonde woman came to me and asked whether I am Luis. Of course, I told the truth and she introduced her as Gerdine. She is the equivalent of my colleague Heike, who was already waiting for us at our destination airport Leipzig.

Together with Gerdine, I went to our group, which consisted only of our guests besides Simona, Gerdine and my boss from Paris, Matt. Except from our Finnish guest Juha, we went into our plane. We have been a bit scared of the worst-case, which meant that one of our guests would miss this flight. But fortunately, Juha appeared at Leipzig, so we did not lose anyone. So we all went into the bus we rent and drove towards Lauscha. Our first scheduled stop has been the glass-blowing manufactory. Unfortunately, our guide did not participate due to a disease and so Heike and I were translating what our new guide was telling. As the final highlight, we blow our own Christmas glasses and took them home.

The way from Lauscha to the highlight of the trip was only 30 minutes. Then, we arrived at the Rennsteig Outdoor Center at Steinach/Thuringia. Our personal adviser Elisa waited for us and welcomed us here. She was also responsible for the biggest laugh flash of the evening. Her answer on the question how big the hill we will jump is, she responded “about 200 to 300 meters”. The group was scared, suddenly it was quiet. But I cleared the situation, she just misunderstood the question. The path to the hill was not lighted up, so we had to use the flash lights of our smartphones. As we arrived at the areal, everyone has had big eyes. The inrun of the ski jump looked (and was) short, but the distance we will fly was formidable. But before the fear went on all of us, we went to the small house to change clothes and to get warm up.

A lot of our guests preferred to dress warmer, I chose light clothing to have less air resistance. After that, we went to the deepest point of the whole area at a bonfire, where Coach Alex welcomed us. He and Elisa explained the procedure and gave us some basic information about this skiflyer-event. At first, we would go up to the former judges’ tower to receive our equipment (ski, helmet and belt). I just checked how we would proceed with the photos that should be made and so we went up together with our photographer Toni. The room where we get our equipment was not very big and every one of us needed some minutes to dress on the security belt. Altough I already sweated under my jacket, I decided to not undress it for the first jump. We went up the stairs to the tower with our skis on the shoulders. Most of the guys tried to stay relaxed and made some jokes. My eyes have been open wide; I had a view on everything I was able to see and went up step by step very calm.

As we arrived at the top, Alex started with his instructions. “Actually, it is very easy. You ride down the inrun. In this process, it is important to have your upper part of the body on your thighs. And also get your head straight forward. If you jump, don’t jump high, just straight to the front. The time has arrived when you noticed that the rope is pulling you up. Then, you just need to force your legs apart and make a V with your skis.” So, we tried to do the inrun position without skis. Only the head position felt a bit strange to everyone, but it became better the more we practised it. Some of the guys were looking down the hill and said to me: “you cannot be crazy enough to do this.” I just shrugged my shoulders and said: “just trust Elisa and Alex. They are doing it for ten years now and there has not been any incident yet.”

In the meantime, our Eurosport-colleague Sebastian Tiffert and his camera-man Fabien arrived as well. The guys wanted to make some exclusive shots for the broadcastings of the current season and so Sebastian wrote his name into the start list. Gerdine appeared as the only female on the start list due to the fact that Simona did not want to jump and Heike gave her spot to me. Gerdine was supposed to open the whole event which could be seen in two ways: we gentlemen just followed the motto “ladies first” or nobody has been able yet to be the first one to jump. Luckily, her work neighbour Matt was second on the list kind of saved our gender. In addition to that the exotic ski jumping countries (Netherlands with Gerdine and Koen, Great Britain with Matt and Jonathan and Dimitri from Belgium) had the same number of jumpers as the rest, so the chances have been 50:50.

In this moment, even the last one of our group knew that at least the first jump would not only be fu – the fear has been too big. Gerdine got prepared by Alex: she went into the boots and skis and the ropes and the ropes were fixed at her security belt. Alex opened the inrun and the light of the signal light disappeared. There was no way back for Gerdine now, she had to down. But only after a couple of meters, she lost the balance and almost lay down on her back. But she was moved automatically to the front as she arrived at the take-off, because the ropeway moved her this way. Her screaming sounds were clearly hearable through the wood. Some of us were laughing; some were holding her heads and the rest just turned around scared. “That has been a fantastic start”, says Matt with a typical British sarcasm. “You have to see it this way: it only gets better for you”, I said to him. He just shook his head, got his stuff together and went to Alex, who prepared the ropes and the inrun for him.

Of course, I got also the first thoughts dominated by fear and respect. It did not seem complicated for me, but I became calmer and just looked around. I did a bit of stretching and talked with Sebastian, who missed some parts of the instructions. Jean-Denis from France was up next after Matt and formed the first well-looking V with the skis. The last jumper before it was my turn was Sebastian who directed Fabien first to have some good shots with the camera. His start into the flight was more parallel style, but then he fast came into the V-style and he was my first indicator for jumping well. The flights would have all the same distance, so the winner is chosen by the best style. Due to the fact I am following the sports for so many years and know a lot of the perspectives, it was my goal to win this competition. The first jump was only a test jump; the second would count for the ranking.

My goal for this jump was to do the essentials well to have to correct only small things in the second jump. Alex called me and I packed my skis and went over to him. At first, I was supposed to lay my skis beside the inrun track, to avoid an early start. I went into the boots and Alex closed them. I also checked my helmet once again, it’s all about security. Now, I stood at the highest point of the whole area and looked downhill. I did not see a lot, the floodlight was too poor for that. “Maybe it is better to not be able to see how deep it really is”, I thought. I took a deep breath, hit my thighs too empower the blooding and waited for the disappearing light. After that, Alex opened the hill and said “the hill is ready, what about you?” and started.

The inrun looked not very steep from above, but I have been very surprised how fast it went down, so I unfortunately stood a bit up to brake. At the take-off, I felt I was far too early, because when the rope pulled me up, I almost was in the V-position. The rest of the movements felt very good, I forced my legs apart as far as possible and tried to close the gap between skis and body. The time went over so fast and the jump ended at the brake-point. This part of the whole thing was the most painful for a man, because the belt got even closer to the body and it felt bad, especially between the legs. I tried to get the belt more slackly, as Elisa gave me the rope I should put into the carabineer, so that she and Heike could pull me to the opposite hill. During these moments, the pain got even more and I was not anymore able to hide that. The end was in sight: getting back to the land.

So, I had to turn my body parallel to the opposite hill, to get there. But that was only possible if you get one shoulder forward. I also had some troubles to do that, but the rest of my body suspense helped me to make it to the opposite hill. I was totally happy and euphoric and said to Heike “this has been incredibly awesome!” She was laughing and asked how the mood of the others on the tower is. “You would really feel the nervousness, but I guess that will be over as soon as everyone has had his first jump”, I answered. Of course, I wanted to get up the ski jump as fast as possible, but Heike reminded me to arrange a break after the first jump so that Toni could change his position. The task for the second jump was to pose for some nice photos as we arrived at the brake-point and finished the jump.

Having this task in my brain, I was walking down the hill and crossed Elisa and the bonfire. I went the same way as before the first jump. In the room, where we received our equipment, I undressed my jacket and my gloves. It was too warm for me and I know from some jumpers which do not wear gloves, that they have a better feeling for their arm and hand position during the air time. Through less clothing, I also would now have less air resistance, of course. I did not see the others’ jumps except from Nicola from Milano. But as I arrived at the inrun house, the conversations started. “That was so much fun! What a great idea this was and now we can improve in the second round”, Gerdine said with a huge smile. “Well then, thanks for the compliment and our press trip went well. But I would also say it is sensational”, I answered smiling. Matt shrugged his shoulders once again and just said with some irony: “as if I would make it better the next time”. But then he put a huge smile on his face and put his thumbs up. I really thought in the first moment that he did not enjoy it. Jean-Denis was really stunned and only said “ski jumpers are totally crazy”. Sebastian tried to put his GoPro on the ski, to get some more special shots. Just as the mood got better and better, the Dutch Koen suddenly said: “imagine we would jump without the rope”….that has been a sucker punch. Everyone got quiet and concentrated on the own jump now. Although we have been totally kind to each other, now the competition atmosphere came up. Nobody did made any statements like “I will beat you all”, but everyone went his/her way now. Even the conversations before each jump were short and not aggressive. Gerdine was the first again and said: “hopefully I will do better than in the first one. The chances are small”. She came well into the inrun position, but the jump looked itself looked quite the same. Matt had also a good start, but he totally missed the take-off and opening the V. But his poses were excellent, just look at the pictures. Jean-Denis had a good afford for the Tricolore and improved his jump a lot. A possible reason for was maybe the fact he was jumping on childrens’ skis now. If this competition was only about posing, Jean-Denis would have been my winner. Sebastian, who changed skis with Jean-Denis, had some troubles in the first part of the flight with the skis, but then did a phenomenal job. His V was probably the best and at the posing, he showed why he is a show-pony.

As he left the inrun, I started focussing on my jump. Because I knew how much time I would have until my jump, I did a small massage for me head and concentrated on the movements I would have to do soon. Then, I put my helmet on to not have to stay so long in this closed equipment system. I strengthened my belt once again, grabbed my skis and went to Alex. He lay down the skis on the timber that was the border of the inrun-track and I went again into the boots. He fixed them and stretched my pullover and my jeans again. Again, I was standing on this high point and look around. The big respect I have had before the first jump, disappeared. I felt secure, because I knew what would come next. And nothing could happen to me. These facts did not make me patient anymore. Alex removed the start stop, so I started my competition jump. Immediately, I went into the inrun-position and my body get up the speed. But I was a bit too ambitious and made the movements at the take-off too early. But the rest proceeded very automatically: my legs forced apart and I made the V fast and well-looking and –feeling. By being focused on only the jump movements, I totally missed the posing – until Heike reminded with her calls. The fact I missed the posing and also that Dimitri did the take-off much better than myself were the reasons for my result with rank two. Same score as Sebastian, actually.

After the competition, we all sat totally euphoric at a table, drank some hot wine and discussed the best-of-moments of the most crazy business experience ever: “I did not jump, I just fell”, said Jonathan, who actually did not made the best jumps. Dimitri was not able yet to be happy about his first place, so I said to him “I do not think there is any guy from your country who could do it like you did”. Sebastian and Fabien were not very happy about their videos and shots. The special view of the GoPro on Sebastian’s ski failed, because it fell down the hill and disappeared for a while in the bushes, until I found it by luck. Meanwhile, Gerdine went from one of our group to the other to make a short video interview with the certificates in their hands. Of course, also Toni did his job and made a photo of everyone; and everybody was smiling and proud of mastering this challenge.

This event was the final step to also communicate now about personal matters and the dinner developed into a long, yummy and entertaining one. The guests raved over the food and German beer and a lot of stories went through the room. Of course, most topics were connected to sports, but that seemed to be totally normal if sports journalists meet together. Even though the next day promised to be a long one, everyone stood awake quite a long time. I have been the fourth lasts who went to bed, together with Gerdine.

Too keep this episode in a still legible length, I will finish here. In the next episode, you will read about how we spent the Saturday morning at the Vogtland-Arena. Until then, have a nice time.

Luis


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