New Year’s Olympic Ski Jumping

The first major sports event in any year is the New Year’s Ski Jumping competition at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, part of the prestigious annual Four Hills Tournament. It’s Olympic connections go back all the way to 1922.

Birger Ruud jumps to Olympic gold in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Earlier that year he had also won the New Year’s competition.

On January 1st, 1922, the first New Year’s Ski Jumping competition was held in Garmisch – this was a separate town until it was forcibly merged with Partenkirchen for the 1936 Winter Olympics. It was part of a national German Olympic Games (Deutsche Winterkampfspiele), as Germany was not permitted to take part in the Olympic Games due to its role in World War I. Only at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz would Germany appear again at the Olympic stage. The jumping hill built for this occasion was used for a competition on January 1st, which was to become an annual tradition. When Garmisch-Partenkirchen was awarded the Winter Olympics of 1936, a new jumping hill was built, which was inaugurated in February 1934, and has been used for the New Year’s event since. It has been renovated several times, in 1950, 1978 and 2007, and is still used in competition today. The event became part of the Four Hills Tournament in 1953, the first edition of that tournament, and has been ever since. The other competitions are held in Oberstdorf (Germany), Innsbruck and Bischofshofen (Austria). Garmisch-Partenkirchen joined Munich in a bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics, but the IOC elected South Korean Pyeongchang instead.

Jens Weißflog won 4 times at Garmisch, and also earned 3 Olympic golds, two of them in Lillehammer 1994 (shown here).

Among the winners of the New Year’s Ski Jump have – naturally – been a lot of Olympians. In fact, all winners since Paavo Lukkariniemi in 1966 have competed at the Olympics. The person with the most wins is Germany’s Martin Neuner with five (1924-1928), and in his only Olympic appearance (1928), he placed 9th. Two Germans have won four times on January 1st: Sepp Weiler, who only attended the 1952 Olympics as he was blocked from competing in 1948 and Jens Weißflog. Weißflog won at Garmisch in 1984-85, in 1990 and, jointly, in 1992. In 1984 he also won a gold medal, adding two more in 1994.

Winners in Garmisch didn’t always do well at the Olympics – e.g. three-time winner Bjørn Wirkola (1967-69), but since the mid-80s, all but a handful of winners have won at least one Olympic medal. On 9 occasions did the winner of the New Year’s Jump also win Olympic gold, although the last two times (2002 and 2010) this was in the team competition rather than an individual event.

Year Ski jumper Country
1936 Birger Ruud Norway
1964 Veikko Kankkonen Finland
1972 Yukio Kasaya Japan
1984 Jens Weißflog East Germany
1988 Matti Nykänen Finland
1994 Espen Bredesen Norway
1998 Kazuyoshi Funaki Japan
2002 Sven Hannawald Germany
2010 Gregor Schlierenzauer Austria

The 2014 podium, with Austrian winner Thomas Diethart.

The winner of the 1962 competition was Georg Thoma of Germany. Two years earlier, he had won a gold medal, but not in ski jumping, but in the Nordic combined (which combines ski jumping with cross country skiing), becoming the first non-Scandinavian to win that title.