Jump with Eddie – Jump 4 Cancer
Week 2 – 24th-30th Jan
So our intrepid competition winners returned to their task of getting to grips with the sport of Ski Jumping, this time on snow. Eddie (the Eagle) Edwards was here in Courchevel to help them move upward and onward to higher places and bigger jumps. Eddie in fact had been here for a few days in advance, training towards his goal of jumping the 90m….
Day 1 – Back on Snow!
The team started day one by going back to basics and getting the feel of the skis under their feet on snow by doing a few “receptions”. Depending on the snow conditions this can be faster and trickier than the plastic of the summer. The summer plastic keeps the skis on track where as on the snow, particularly if hard pack or icy, it’s not so easy. Very soon though, by late morning, some of the team were already back on the jumps.
Of course there were ups and downs as the team got back into the groove and Tony Delaup, the Club des Sports Head Ski Jumping coach, pointed out this was “c’est la vie”! Max, who had a really strong week during the summer, was a bit surprised to find it was taking a little longer to re-find the sensations and balance points. It demonstrates that nothing should be assumed, especially in Ski Jumping! Saying that, Mark was as exuberant as ever, throwing himself into every jump with gusto (his kids had been jumping on the 10m the week before so perhaps had set him up!) Andrew was wisely taking his time to re-accustomise himself with the beloved 60m. There was a revelation with Alex who though rather apprehensive to start, realised that she had been doing receptions in the “in run” (tuck) position so was going 10-20 kmh faster than the other guys by the bottom of the reception slope! A relatively easy fix to use the “standing up” technique to add a bit of air braking was happily applied! Donald understandably struggled with the shock of returning to the stresses and strains of ski jumping and keeping focused on technique. Tony had explained one of the biggest challenges is remaining “lucid” whilst dealing with the fear!!
During the afternoon the guys were keen to continue and started moving at their own individual pace and initially were not so keen to spend time in the gym! They soon realised when put through their balance paces by Jonty Learoyd, 15 yr. old Ski Jumper, who was assisting Tony, that like most sport the big technical lessons are learnt in the gym and it’s particularly pertinent in ski jumping. To try and get someone to change the position of their ankles, knees, back or hips and then consider how which part of the body starts the process of a jump (legs, not back, not ankles, not head) is almost impossible screaming down an in-run at 80km/h!
Back out on the 60m hill, the guys started to try to put the lessons of the gym into practice. This of course can have a variety of outcomes! It’s interesting as a ski instructor and a trainee ski jump coach to see the conundrum of some students taking on concentrating on the technique that has been discussed but then forgetting to ski! Some found that once they go back to the jump they find it almost impossible to consider anything they have learnt! (One can empathise!) Everyone was dealing with this in different ways and it was clear to me the biggest issue was finding the solution to Tony’s key point. How do you remain lucid when you are scared s%^&less! So the team moved forward but with some steps forward and some steps back. Max and Donald both learned an unwelcome lesson about snow burn and that when the coach says you must wear gloves, you wear gloves!!
After more gym work the team moved forward, getting more comfortable with the speed and fear management and showed some progress on the technical front on the 60m. Tony’s general approach to learning to ski jumping, is a slow assimilation process that will get each athlete to become more and more accustomed and slowly reduce the “black hole”, the time period that the brain loses due to over-stimulation (Yep, it’s a well-established fact that all ski jumpers completely miss a time-period during their jump, normally just after take-off!) so the goal is to reduce that loss of awareness, bit by bit! Some of the guys’ black holes may have started a bit earlier than the take-off table!
It’s also an interesting challenge, that as very experienced skiers, they have to un-learn the hip position. Generally, whilst alpine skiing, the preferred position is with the hip tipped up and forward whereas ski jumping need the hips to be rolled right back (to ideally isolate the movement of the legs and avoid opening the hips as you push) Andrew being a very experienced instructor and racer understandably had an ingrained hip position that was somewhat understandably difficult to budge!
So for the guys it was generally an ongoing issue of dealing with the black hole and trying to remember what the hell they were meant to be doing.
For Eddie it was even more of a technical challenge. In his day the skis were not attached at the heel at all and hinged almost completely at the toe (to the extent that, at times, he used to get hit in the face with his skis as they took the air!). The modern set up still has hinge at the toe but have a “tie” which limits the hinging of the ski. It means the ski takes the air quicker and creates more stability in flight (so you can fly further, safer). Old style jumping was a fairly natural jump with a rolling on to the ball of the foot/toes as you finish the jump (i.e. using your calf muscles). The modern set up means that you avoid using your calf AT ALL. You can spot a ski jumper by his calf muscles-they hardly exist!) Modern jumping is all about maintaining perfect balance, whilst using the quads to provide all the power AND keeping your feet completely flat (i.e. both your heel and ball of your foot leave (and return to) the ground in unison! Try it, it’s not as simple as it sounds! So Eddie’s challenge was to un-learn something that was ingrained over 15 years (yes, Eddie was not just a one-time Olympic wonder) and completely change his push!
Alex was finding that the “black hole” and “the dealing with the fear” was not helping her lucidity and asked if there was a way to take a step back before taking the step forward to the 60m.
So, we headed to the 10m, which the team affectionately renamed “the pimple” and with no black hole, she immediately demonstrated that technically she was clearly one of the strongest of the team. A brilliant idea! An interesting conversation was had that evening regarding the difference between coaching ski jumping and learning ski jumping! Perhaps a different approach was worth considering.
A session on the pimple got quite a few technical things sorted and issues identified. It was a revelation to see some really solid technique developing and confidence growing. There were some interesting approaches as to how to explain how to get some of the guys to adjust their hip position during in-run (which unfortunately can’t be written here) and will have to stay in the annuls of ski jumping coaching folk-law (imagine finding a way of explaining to someone to roll their hips forward with someone with really have old habits) but they worked!!
The pimple was a success and most of the team moved forward technically. Mark found it very difficult though, to change how he pushed (he was jumping with his body, meaning as his upper body came up and he ended up on his heels, which meant that virtually every jump he is behind the skis (not ideal) so we spent a lot of time examining how to improve that. Max’s in run position was looking great, Andrew actually started jumping rather than surviving and Alex continued to jump really well. Donald struggled initially with the straightening and locking of legs but also really started to make progress.
So, back to the 60m with oodles of new thoughts and confidence. Max, Mark and Andrew were really starting to be able to keep lucid in the face of the fear and start to develop here too. To the extent that Max launched a really great technical jump and scared the living daylights out of both himself as well as coaches as he headed beyond the 40m mark! It was great to see his technique really working though he may have thought otherwise!
With the pimple work providing new confidence, Alex decided she was OK to take on the 60m for the first time since the summer. She jumped really well but ended up a bit on her tails, the black hole took over, skis wobbled and she went down. L Almost exactly the same as the summer in that she jumped really well, but then completely forgot to ski! The challenge to remain lucid whilst dealing with the fear was proving to not be easy.
It was decided that a bit of team bonding in an environment they were all comfortable with was a good idea so they took to the mountains on Alpine skis and returned for lunch with big smiles and if it hadn’t been for the promise of David Viry ex France Team jumper, taking the coaching role for the afternoon we may not have seen Alex much after lunch!
Back on the wagon with David, who is currently training to be a ski instructor with ESF 1650 (who very kindly gave him the afternoon off)? They all LOVED David, his calm manner, his smoky eyes perhaps, seemed to revitalise the guys, particularly dealing with Alex’s black hole!
After some consideration, David helped Alex on the bar and she jumped, as she was clearly capable of and happily remembered to ski!! Alex was ecstatic to have jumped…and survived! The team demonstrated the ski-jumpers in house appreciation of anyone who has really joined the club with BUG hugs all round at the bottom. The smoky eyes definitely helped in some way, whether one could say with Alex’s lucidity I’m not sure!
A return to the pimple for some revision of technique followed further preparation on the 60m for the evening and The Unofficial British Ski Jumping Championships!! The competitive juices started to show with a slight loss of technique in some circumstances, but the preparation for the big event was going well. Alex then decided she was ready to take the 60m on again, to hopefully reduce the black hole further. Once again the jump was GREAT, the skiing though, once again, not so well! No David, no smoky eyes, no reduction of the black hole!
We started late that afternoon in an attempt to keep the legs fresh for the big competition. There was also media duties that come with the territory, a photo shoot for Dare2b who had kindly donated a load of kit for us to sell off for Ski 4 Cancer, interviews for Lionsgate, the production company of Eddie’s new film who had come out with a film crew to capture some of the fun and games and of course promote the new film.
Once free of the media our new Unofficial British Ski Jumping Team took to the task of their final “official training” with Tony and David whilst the final preparations were put in place for the Unofficial British Ski Jumping Championships.
A big hand has to go to the Volunteers from both Alp Leisure, local seasonaires and the Courchevel Mairie, who helped to set up Vin Chaud, Hot Chocolate, stalls to sell “Jump with Eddie” t-shirts all to raise as much cash as possible for Ski 4 Cancer. It was then announced that a late entry, Louis Learoyd had declared himself fit for the competition! He got the nod from Coach Tony and the OK from Mum and Dad as he had done his homework all of which caused a bit of a stir with the team. Who was this 9 year old, crashing on their parade??
With floodlights on, the piste prepared to perfection, the crowd gathered, (several hundred, OMG what have we created!) the commentator (me) flicks the switch on the mic on and we’re off.
The first Unofficial British Ski Jumping Championships is underway! Official training starts at 17:00. With bibs distributed, the starter (Lorna from Lionsgate) in place, coaches ready, the athletes head to the lift to take on their first competitive ski jumping competition. Then a slight commotion; HOLD ON who’s the guy in the fancy ski jumping suit?? Not Eddie (he’s already got one)…It’s MAX fashioning a dashing rather skinny, aquamarine blue version!!! Who says ski jumpers are boring?
Official training starts with the guys in bib order (Eddie wants number 88…Calgary Olympics) to great applause. I’m not sure the crowd thought that the team would actually be jumping but once they got going showed the jumpers their appreciation. Of course the biggest cheer was saved for Eddie and almost before he stopped, the interviews started. The competition hadn’t even actually got under way! Suddenly the focus changes and there is an aquamarine vision flying through the air… Max Jumps…Max FALLS!!! Both skis off! Both bindings off! Skis broken! The aquamarine suit slightly less glossy.
The commentator explains there will be a brief technical break as the technical team find new skis, adjust things and Max is away again, back up the lift, this time for the real thing
Opener (crash test dummy) Florent starts proceedings off leaping in the region of 29-30m and according to most of the ladies, looking good. What is it about 1650 ESF instructors? The competition continues with some nice jumps and no major dramas with Max looking good, Eddie showing great style and latecomer Louis (with some calls of who is the “ringer”) taking the lead with a lovely V flight.
So after the first round things looked like this. Louis led with 41m, Eddie second 38m, Max and Mark equal on 29m, Andrew (new Welsh record 16m) Donald 12 (again check). Alex decided to use her right to forgo the first round jump, keeping her energy for an all or nothing jump in the final round. So, the battle was on. No interviews this time, the jumpers took stock of the status and without any further thought headed back to the top of the 60m hill. The crowd held their breath..
The second round then started with our only lady, Alex Stubbs, and was then run in reverse order with the leader Louis Learoyd due to jump last and defend his first round lead. Alex prepared herself with the help of David Viry, still in his ESF 1650 instructors uniform. Sliding on to the starter bar, the crowd held their collective breaths and after a little head coaching, she let go and headed down the ramp! Obviously David’s coaching allowed Alex to find a way through the mist of the black hole and boom, she jumps, she lands, she skis, the crowd goes wild! Alex Stubbs takes the Unofficial British Ski Jumping Ladies crown with a new British Ladies record of 10m
The minor places are then battled out with Andrew Marshall setting another new Welsh Ski Jumping record of 17m with the commentator overdoing it on the mic somewhat and then it comes time to get to the business end of the evening with Mark and Max both looking to get on to the podium. The competitive juices almost get the better of them both with technique completely going out of the window and both launching their way through and beyond the infamous black hole. Remaining lucid whilst competing was now more the issue. Fear had been thrown away and they both flew.
Mark, who had been marked down on style in the first round because of a lack of fancy ski jumping suit even though he and Max had achieved the same distance, launched himself to 30m, improving on his first round effort of 29m. Max took to the bar and at the end of the in-run, exploded off the table, completely out of control, style out of the window (except perhaps his aquamarine suit). Max was clearly going for the podium or going down in flames. To take the third step on the podium Max needed to clear 31m and improve by 2m. To great cheers his 32m jump was enough to take a certain step on the podium even though some of us were slightly concerned about how he would get up the step considering the tightness of his suit!
Now to the pros…Eddie is on the bar…he jumps…great flight…40m!!! The crowd goes wild, though is it enough?
So last up and the pressures on…it’s Louis Learoyd on the bar. The crowd goes quiet in expectation. Tony, his coach give the sign “yep” and Louis is off. He launches, a perfect V flight, looking for the 40m line, knowing that would seal it, telemark landing….they wait for confirmation of the distance….41m!
Louis Learoyd, aged 9 is the new Unofficial British Ski Jumping Champion 2016! The crowd goes wild, the tv cameras whir, interviews are made, signing of t-shirts, photos taken, culminating with the podium with medals presented by special guest Emily Sarsfield British Ski Cross number 1 who has flown in especially.
Ever the gentleman, Eddie told the crowd that he was delighted as it was his first ever podium and then proceeded to make a young 3 year old fan’s day by giving him his medal. Eddie clearly loved spending time with all his fans who had been treated to what everyone agreed had been a wonderful occasion as well as the sport that had given him and many others so much pleasure and pride.
With a full collections box, a drinks party back in the chalet, the champagne flowed with five very happy, exalted competitors, thanking the heavens they had all got through it and survived. Making friends for life, joining a very exclusive club, overcoming fears and challenges all ending with an experience they will truly never forget.
I don’t think any of the team will forget breaking through the infamous black hole. If the remained completely lucid whilst doing so or not, I’m not sure, but they also have another saying often used amongst the Ski Jumping fraternity being, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
You couldn’t come across 6 stronger people
Over €1000 raised on the night for Ski 4 Cancer means we would like to give a massive thanks to the Mairie de Courchevel, Tony Delaup of the Club des Sports Courchevel, David Viry of ESF1650, Dare2b, all the volunteers from Alp Leisure Ltd and Snow Retreat, Lorna and the team from Lionsgate and last but not least our amazing local production man Guy from Cyclop Productions. Hope you enjoy. If you do PLEASE donate here http://www.ski4cancer.org/eddie-the-eagle-jumps-again
In memory of Helen Learoyd