Home comforts for Pagnier as ski jumpers prepare to take on the hill
French ski jumper Josephine Pagnier knows she will have few excuses for not performing her best when the women’s individual event gets underway on Sunday.
Not only is the 17-year-old prospect in fine form but she will also be taking on her peers at a course she knows well and on a jump prepared by her father.
“I love the hill, it’s almost home for me,” Pagnier said of the Premanon venue at the Les Tuffes Nordic Centre in France.
Pagnier grew up 45 minutes’ drive away and, with her father in charge of a ski jump less than a mile from her home, she has been flying through the air since she was old enough to wear skis.
“I don’t actually remember the first time, I just loved doing it all the time when I was younger,” she said. “My mum was a bit worried but she supported me and believed in me. She had no choice really, me and my dad love ski jumping.”
Pagnier’s progression has been swift. In late 2016, aged 14, she won a major junior event in Germany. Two years later she competed on the World Cup stage for the first time at the same venue where she will attempt to win Youth Olympic Games gold.
“It is a very good memory for me, I got my first World Cup ranking [points],” she said of the competition where she recorded a best finish of 30th.
Now a regular on the World Cup circuit, Pagnier has also won twice in the Alpen Cup, an International Ski Federation (FIS) development series.
Not that she is expecting to have it all her own way at Lausanne 2020, especially with the junior world champion, Anna Shpyneva (RUS) in attendance.
“She is a big rival, she is good,” Pagnier said. “We are not friends but we respect each other.”
Annika Belshaw (USA), another to have already jumped at World Cup level, is also hoping to feature, particularly after overcoming a key challenge.
“I don’t get nervous any more, I am confident in myself now,” Belshaw said. “I worked with my sports psychologist on it, on visualising success. And I have been working on a pre-jump routine. I will be using that here.”
Just under two years her junior, her brother Erik has been following his sister up and down the ski jump for most of his life.
“I was pretty well prepared when I did my first jump,” said Erik, who competes in the men’s individual on Sunday also. “My sister talked me through it. I was nervous but mostly excited. She maybe teased me a little about it.”
Just 15 years old, Erik has competed in three FIS Cup events already this season and has targeted a finish inside the top half of the field at Lausanne 2020.
The action concludes with the mixed team event on 20 January. It features one male and one female ski jumper per team plus one additional male Nordic combined athlete.