Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Why the Four Hills Tournament is my favorite wintersports event

The Four Hills Tournament starts today in Oberstdorf. While alpine skiing is my favorite winter sport, ski jumping still has my favorite wintersports event.

Photo: Brigitte Waltl-Jensen, OK Vierschanzentournee

Most ski sports have the season-long World Cup and are featured in the Winter Olympics or have their own World Championships. While the Olympics and Worlds get the biggest recognition, I am reluctant to rate them above the season-long World Cup, especially in a sport as sensitive to weather conditions (or other random factors) as ski jumping (or alpine skiing or even cross-country skiing).

Sure, in some ski sports some of the best athletes skip some World Cup events to concentrate on the Olympics or Worlds. Then somebody can score easy points in their rivals' absence to win the World Cup title while getting beaten by rivals peaking at the major events.

The Four Hills Tournament has nicely the best of both worlds. All the best athletes are there and want to win. But unlike at the Olympics and Worlds, getting hot for two jumps doesn't win the title, one needs to be consistently good for eight jumps, in four different hills. And that is different to the World Cup where one can recover from bad competitions whereas at the Four Hills even one bad jump can end the title hunt. Still, small differences in wind conditions are less likely to decide the title than at the Olympics or Worlds; at the Four Hills there are eight jumps instead of only two for luck to even out.

Of course, one can get hot for the Four Hills, win the title, and disappear after that. But that is harder to do over eight jumps compared to two jumps at the Olympics or Worlds. That's why I rate surprise titles at the Four Hills over surprise gold medals at the Olympics or Worlds. That's not anymore luck but peaking at the right time.

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