Planica - why Slovenes consider themselves the pioneers of ski-jumping

Ziga Zivulovic/Bobo,

In the 1930s, a group of promising young men travelled to ski jumping competitions abroad. Among them were the General Secretary of the Yugoslav Winter-Sport Association Joso Gorec and the engineer Stanko Bloudek. Thanks to these men, Slovenes now consider themselves pioneers of ski-jumping and it is in Planica where it all began.

Thanks to Bloudek and Gorec, Planica received its first ski jump in 1934, allowing jumps of up to 90 metres. At that time, there were only two jumpers in the world to have jumped over 80 metres. Bloudek however believed that ski jumpers would soon be able to safely reach 100m - and beyond. In 2007, 72 years after his jump in Planica, Gustl Maier visited this years World cup final and he was happy to be part of it again:

"Planica is unique and it is exciting to be here. 72 years ago we were the first to jump in Planica and this was a long time ago. It is great that today the new generation is still ski jumping and ski flying. One has to experience this kind of competition to really appreciate this sport. I congratulate everyone, who is involved in this event - it is wonderful and the whole environment is so unique."

Influential Ski Organization officials tried to prevent ski jumping but in 1936, a new historic event took place in Planica. The Austrian jumper Sepp Bradl was the first man to fly over 100 metres on skis: a new discipline was born - ski-jumping. The long-standing quarrel between Slovenian sports officials and FIS broke out at that point, and did not end until 27 years later, when ski flights were recognised as a separate ski jumping discipline. In 1969, 35 years after the first ski-flying competition, the Norwegian Bjoern Wirkola and the Czech Jiri Raska pushed the world record to 165 metres; 38 years after his record jump Bjoern Wirkola this year visited the Planica ski flying competition as a spectator and this is how he remembers Planica:

"Yes, these were very fine days, and this hill in 1969 was the biggest hill in the world and a new record was set with every jump."

In the years to come many new world records were achieved in Planica. In 1994, Toni Nieminen succeeded in flying over 200 metres: the first man in history to do so. Until today, the record has been pushed to almost 240 metres. Current record holder is Bjoern Einar Romoeren from Norway who jumped 239m in 2005. Before the start of this year's competition in Planica he said:

"For sure it is the ending of the season, so it is a different athmopshere but this hill is my favourite hill and normally I do really well here. It is just fun flying you just think too much about the results, you jump and that is fun."

From the 22nd to 25th of March, the World Cup ski jumping final took place again in Planica and as usual long distances were achieved.This year, Poland's Adam Malysz confirmed his dominance on the giant hill at Planica by securing victory in this years's World Cup season finale to take the overall World Cup title. Slovenian competitors did better at home than during the season. The best day for Slovenian athletes was the first day when Jernej Damijan finished third and Robert Kranjec fourth. The performance by Slovenian competitors in Planica was a welcome end for what was otherwise a disappointing season.