The ski jumps tower in the distance, lords over the landing space where jumpers hope to slide gracefully into the open to loud applause.
Live, ski jumping is a difficult sport to watch – TV producers have developed ways to make the experience of the ski jumper up close and personal. From my relatively good seats, you can see the ski jumper prepare himself on the large screen that was to the left of the launching slopes. After that, since you’re in the cold arena with the ski jumpers, your eyes turn to the glaring whiteness of the slopes. It takes some getting used to, but eventually you get used to spying the tiny athlete, skis extended in V-formation, flying through the air.
Yes, you can see this far better on the TV, especially the large screen monsters we all have today. But seeing it live is to hear the raucous cheers of fans. Who else go to ski jumping competitions in the cold except ski jumpers, family members and friends, Olympic teammates?
And yet the people who were there, and it was a significant crowd for a qualifier for the Normal Hill ski jump competition at the Alpensia Ski Jumping venue, the day before the official start of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Lots of ooohs and ahhhs from the crowds as jumpers approached a visibly green line in the snow that I would assume indicated the best distance or qualifying distance of the event. (Forgive my ignorance, ski jumping fans!)
For some reason, there was a crowd of Korean women not far behind me who went wild for the Polish jumpers, waving the Polish flag and screaming when David Kubacki launched in the cool, night air.
Fifty ski jumpers qualified on February 8, 2018. They go once more into the fray on February 10, 2018.