Slovenia’s ski jumpers soar to glory

Picture by YIS / IOC Simon Bruty

Slovenia’s young ski jumpers look to have very bright futures ahead of them, after winning all three competitions on the hills at the Lysgardsbakken Arena, a legendary venue used at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games.

There was no shortage of exciting action on the hills at Lysgardsbakken, where women’s ski jumping featured on the Olympic programme once more, following its YOG debut at Innsbruck 2012, the subsequent creation of the FIS Women’s Ski Jumping World Cup and its senior Olympic bow at Sochi 2014.

The men’s and women’s competitions were both dominated by Slovenian jumpers, with Bor Pavlovic reigning supreme in the former and Ema Klinec in the latter, with two enormous jumps. The triumphant twosome then linked up with compatriot and Nordic combined specialist Vid Vrhovnic to complete a golden hat-trick with victory in the mixed team event.

“I wasn’t thinking about getting two medals, I am always thinking about how I can go further, rather than winning competitions at the moment,” said Ema, arguably the star of the hill, whose jumps of 95m and 96m would have been too good for virtually the entire men’s field. “But now I can enjoy it. It’s been a very enjoyable event for us, and we can be so happy.”

Ema Klinec SLO © Thomas Lovelock for YIS/IOC

The world’s traditional ski jumping powerhouses were no match for the flying Slovenians. Norway’s Marius Lindvik took silver and Germany’s Jonathan Siegel bronze in the men’s competition, while Russia’s Sofia Tikhonova and Italy’s Lara Malsinger finished second and third respectively in the women’s, with Germany and Austria rounding off the podium in the mixed team event.

Ema and Bor show the way

Medals were the minimum requirement for Slovenia, who have the world’s number-one jumper in Peter Prevc in their ranks and a new training centre producing some hugely promising young athletes.

“Bor and Ema are so good, I knew that we could win the mixed event provided I didn’t fall over,” said Vid.

Ema Klinec, Vid Vrhovnik and Bor Pavlovcic SLO (left to right) © Thomas Lovelock for YIS/IOC

The double gold medallists are widely tipped to make it to the very highest level, with both having already made their FIS World Cup debuts. Now 17, Ema has three podium finishes to her name to date and lies eighth in the world rankings, while Bor has been competing on the men’s senior circuit for some months now.

Bor Pavlovcic SLO © Simon Bruty for YIS/IOC

Aside from Slovenia’s stunning successes, what really shone through on the hills was the YOG spirit, with the athletes happily congratulating each other after every safely completed jump.

While some of them may never climb on to a winners' podium, that didn’t stop them from having the time of their lives, as young American jumper Logan Sankey confirmed: “The whole thing has just been so awesome. I can’t stop smiling.”