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Another two ski jumps closed: is this the end of ski jumping in Harrachov?

on 2018-05-25

There have been not too many news about the ski jumping hills in Harrachov. Now, the Czech Olympic Committee stated that the normal hill (K90) and also the K40 hill will be closed. This move is a deep cut in the substance of ski jumping in the Czech Republic. takes a look on the future perspective of the hills at the famous devil’s mountain and the Czech Republic in general.

Only a little longer than four years ago, the FIS ski flying world championships took place in Harrachov. Severin Freund crowned himself new best ski flyer of the world in two competition rounds; the team competition was canceled for the same reason as the other two competition rounds: heavy wind. Afterwards, only a FIS-Cup took place in Harrachov, in March 2016, since then it became very quiet around the hills at the devil’s mountain. The last World Cup on the large hill took place in 2011. Gregor Schlierenzauer and Richard Freitag won each one individual competition, Norway with Tom Hilde, Bjørn Einar Romøren, Vegard Haukø Sklett und Anders Bardal the victory in the team competition. These two largest hills still got a FIS certificate, but are out of order since 2014.

Harrachov is the allegory of the fall of Czech ski jumping

This development now faced its high- respectively low-light: the Czech Olympic Committee (ČOV) came up with a press release this Wednesday and stated that the normal hill (K90) and also the K40 are closed. "We are not able to continue operating these two ski jumping hills. It is way too dangerous to let ski jumpers on these hills. That also appears for the lift who leads to these ski jumping hills", Petr Graclík, Secretary General of the ČOV pointed out in the press release. The failures are heavy, the condition of the hills very poor: "It is irresponsible to give people access to these ski jumps. The inrun towers are scruffy and there is a risk of falling off corroded parts of the structure", a review of the situation tells.

The largest ski jumping hill of the village in the border triangle, which can be used throughout the whole year, is the K26 in Areal Kaml. Kids of the region still have a small basis, but only until a certain status of their development. Boys and girls in teenager age would need hills with a size of K60 and bigger. Indeed, there is a hill of that size: in Rožnov pod Radhoštêm in the region of Zlín, which is a almost five-hour-drive by car away from Harrachov. At least, the HS 77 in Lomnice nad Popelkou (45 minutes away) is being reconstructed at the moment.

Only three ski jumping hills in Czech Republic which match World Cup standards

Without a doubt, the ski jumping hills in Czech Republic have had better days in their life. The final decision of the closing of the hills in Harrachov was made by the board of directors of the public benefit organization KAH, which hardly paid the costs for another four years of running the ski jumping hills since 2013. And this might be the end. At the end of this year, also the K73, the last ski jumping hill in order, will be closed. Lukáš Sobotka, president of the Czech Ski Federation, said: "Even if this was a very difficult decision for us, especially looking at the sport and the history, extending the agony was senseless."

It is a deep cut into the substance of the sport of ski jumping in Czech Republic. Only the Ještêd ski jumping hills in Liberec (large and normal hill) and the HS 106 normal hill in Frenštát pod Radhoštêm match with the highest FIS standards and are frequently used. Marta Křepelková, participant at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Lahti 2017, tells: "The conditions in summer are still okay: we can jump in Liberec and Frenštát. But now with the closing of the K90 in Harrachov, we do not have any hill we can train on in winter. Liberec and Frenštát are not prepared then." Sobotka predicts: "Ski jumping becomes more and more expensive for our athletes. Now, they will have to jump on ski jumping hills in foreign countries a lot.", but also says: "We figured out this situation could occure one day. We will try to do everything possible to close this gap."

Will Harrachov ever host FIS ski flying world championships again?

But, will this be enough? And what are the future goals of the Czech Ski Federation in the disciplines of ski jumping and Nordic combined? Since the glory days of Jakub Janda and a few World Cup victories of Jan Matura and Roman Koudelka, the Czech ski jumpers did not achieve any bigger success. Also the Nordic combined athletes struggled quite a lot in the past years. Only Tomáš Portyk, who became Junior world champion 2016 in Râšnov (Romania) and won the gold medal at the first edition of the Youth Olympic Winter Games 2012 in Innsbruck, stays as an exception.

The development of ski jumping, Nordic combined and the situation of the ski jumping hills in the country went in parallel lines. Still great are memories of the historic happenings such as the world record jumps of Armin Kogler (176 meters) and Pavel Ploc (181 meters) 1980 and 1983. And also the last FIS ski flying world championships produced their highlights; especially next to the hill, when the approximately 10,000 visitors each day waited patiently and produced great atmosphere on all four days of competition. The next FIS ski flying world championships in Harrachov are supposed to be held in 2024.

But, will Harrachov ever host FIS ski flying world championships again? Despite the circumstances, this sounds more like utopia than like a fantasy. But, Petr Graclík is in fight mode: "We will do everything in cooperation with the Czech Ski Federation to fulfill the investment calculation of the renovation of the facilites." Only time will tell if he is able to keep this promise. But, for sure, the Czech ski jumping would enjoy it.

Ski Jumps:

CZE Harrachov (Sportovní areál Čerťák)
CZE Harrachov (Areál velkých můstků Čerťák)
CZE Harrachov (Areál Kaml)


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