technical though it may be, ski jumping remains the most frightening-looking'
sport of all. "The TV angle, where it looks like we're being launched into
space, is very deceiving," says Alborn. "We're never more than 10 or 15
feet off the ground."
Hastings, but "that's misleading. You can't stop in flight and go straight
down because of the speed through the air. It's more like being 30 or 40 feet
in the air. It's not totally safe, definitely."
imminent when a jumper commits too much to the jump and his skis pop up into
his face, or too little and they fall away from him. In either case there's not
much he can do to compensate. "What sucks about ski jumping is that you
know when you're going to crash," says 17-year-old Clint Jones, one of
Alborn's Olympic teammates. "Your skis go vertical, and you just say to
yourself, This is going to hurt."
tolerate all this risk and pain in pursuit of the singular rush that comes with
speed and flight and, in the end, survival and maybe even the occasional
victory. Their journey is as intoxicating as the result, as the world slows and
shrinks until nothing exists outside the helmet. "Time slows down,"
says Lincoln DeWitt, the 2001 World Cup skeleton champion. "I watched a
tape of myself between turns 10 and 11 at Park City, and it lasted one second.
I had to rewind it a bunch to take it in, it happened so quickly. But here's
the amazing thing: When I was running the course, I remember having three
distinct thoughts in that one second."
describes the rush of a ski run like this: "You're in the start house at
the top of the downhill and there's chaos. The crowd below is going nuts and a
helicopter is shooting film above you and the scoreboard is mere, and then you
push off and it all goes away and you're in a dream. Then you get to the finish
and the sound explodes again like the spaceship hitting hyperspace in Star
Wars. Poooom! Awesome. Then you can't wait to do it again."
Nineteenth-century Olympic ideals—faster, higher—racing into the 21st century
at warp speed. "Ninety miles an hour on your back, on a little sled,"
says luger Benshoof. "How does that feel? Cool, that's how. Pretty