Sochi 2014: The challenge of Sochi’s infamous large hill

Sochi 2014: Jumping Sochi’s large hill is arguably the biggest test of bravery at the Winter Olympics

Launching yourself off the large hill at Sochi requires a serious amount of intestinal fortitude.

With the Men’s K125 Ski Jump qualifying due to get under way later today, the large hill has claimed multiple victims during the practice sessions and is beginning to get a notorious reputation.

It boasts a vertical drop of 140 metres from starting position to landing area, roughly equivalent to a 40-storey fall in about nine seconds.

There is a certain fear that’s for sure, not on the normal hill but it’s different on the large hill

2006 gold medallist Thomas Morgenstern

Competitors reach speeds of up to 90kph during descent and one wrongly-positioned ski on landing can mean the end of a career.

Russia’s Mikhail Maksimochkin dramatically crashed and fractured his ribs during training on Wednesday and spent the night in hospital, but amazingly the 20-year-old has refused to rule himself out of the competition.

Alexander Uvarov, president of Russia’s national Ski Jumping federation, said: “Usually it takes a week for the pain to subside and two to three weeks for the injury to heal.

“But athletes sometimes insist on carrying on despite their injuries so it’s up to him, his coach and doctors to make the final decision.”

Gold medal winner on the normal hill, Poland’s Kamil Stoch, also crashed yesterday injuring his arm but is expected to compete and is favourite to add gold on the large hill.

Triple Olympic Ski Jumping Champion Thomas Morgenstern was hospitalized with skull and lung injuries after a horror training crash ahead of the Kulm World Cup in January and when asked if he had concerns on the large hill at Sochi, the Austrian didn’t mince his words.

“I would be lying if I said no,” he said. “There is a certain fear that’s for sure, not on the normal hill but it’s different on the large hill.”

At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics it was discovered that at least 11% of athletes incurred an injury during the games, but somewhat perversely, ski jumping was among the events with the lowest injury risk.

The others, less surprisingly, being the Nordic skiing events, curling, speed skating and freestyle moguls.

Perhaps these statistics will provide a crumb of comfort to the competitors as they sit at the top of the hill, but on the other hand, perhaps not.

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