Steamboat ski jumpers use technology to make small adjustments
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A flight off a ski jump takes about seven or eight seconds to complete, from bar to landing. From the coaches stand, athletes are a blur as they launch off the in-run and soar down the landing ramp.
If it all happens so fast, how do coaches and athletes break down the nuances of the jump and decide what needs improvement? Before technology, it was all taken in and evaluated by the naked eye. Now, with the help of iPhones and iPads, a coach can take a video of a jump, relay that to the iPad at the bottom of the hill, where the athlete can watch the jump they just completed.
In an event like a qualifier for the junior championships on Howelsen Hill, small adjustments can be the difference between making the cut, or not.
Step 1: Trial jump
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The trial jump is just as much for the judges as it is for the athlete. It’s a way to gage if athletes are starting from the correct bar and landing at the proper place in the jump.
It’s also a chance for the athlete to “feel out the hill,” according to Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier Gunnar Gilbertson.
Step 2: Adjust
SSWSC Nordic combined coach Karl Denney said he’s seen enough jumps that he can detect subtleties in form by himself, but since he’s so focused on recording the jump, he usually has to look back at the footage to find a critique.
Gilbertson said he’s rarely aware of his form when he’s jumping, since it’s all over in a matter of seconds.
“You can sometimes feel like, ‘I was way too high off the takeoff,’ or that your hands are really far back,” he said. “Other times, you can’t feel something, so that’s when it’s nice to have the coach up there.”
Step 3: Competition jump 1
Gilbertson’s first jump was good for 67 meters. He picked up 50 style points and the judges scores between 16 and 17.
He ended the first round of jumps with a total of 107.6.
Step 4: Adjust
Denney said each athlete has tendencies he reiterates after each jump, using key words or buzz words that remind the athlete of what to correct.
“His tendency lately has been to take the chest too high and get hit by the wind and slow down,” Denney said. “(He needs to) focus on keeping the chest low and on what it feels like to engage the core and legs to create that power.”
After watching his first jump and discussing with Denney over walkie-talkie, he knew what he needed to do.
“I still just need to be a little more aerodynamic off the takeoff and more confident in the air, but it’s good to see I am improving from a few weeks ago.”
Step 5: Competition jump 2
Keeping in mind Denney’s advice, Gilbertson took off for his second jump. He tried to be more aerodynamic and stay in the air longer and flew 65 meters.
Like his first attempt, he earned 50 style points and after tallying the judges scores, totaled 102.8 for the jump.
Step 6: Analyze
After all the athletes were done jumping, Denney met with them in the locker room. He sent them the videos of their jumps, so they could have access to them as well.
By slowing down the video and slowly clicking through frame by frame, Denney and his competitors can break down exactly what went wrong or right in their jump and work on their form at a later practice.
“A lot of the time we’ll look at World Cup jumpers and compare the two videos and show them this is what we mean by X,” Denney said. “So, they have that ideal imagery in their head too.”
Next: Cross country
With a combined total of 210.4 after his jumps, Gilbertson was the fourth and final U18 athlete out of the gate in the cross country portion.
SSWSC athlete Niklas Malacinski won the U18 male race, while Steamboat racers Tess Arnone and Alexa Brabec respectively won the U18 and U16 girls races.
Zach Selzman out of Park City was the victor in the U16 boys division.
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