The unstoppable ski jumper

Eirin Maria Kvandal is a fighter who has finally been rewarded

Norway has a new ski queen: Eirin Maria Kvandal. The fact that the 22-year-old was able to leave her mark on the competition at the end of the season is a bit like the story of the ugly duckling that became a beautiful swan.

First things first: The career of the young woman, who comes from the province of Nordland but now lives and trains in Trondheim, was anything but straightforward. The fact that she made it to ski jumping at all was like the first miracle. The Norwegian suffered from scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, from birth. Although the resulting back problems had no impact on her everyday life, they were incompatible with her sport. However, as the curvature was in her upper body, an operation was possible. In 2018, Kvandal underwent the procedure, which lasted seven hours and involved the implantation of two metal plates and 22 screws. For most athletes, this would mean the end of their career, but for Kvandal it was a start.

But that was not enough. When Kvandal returned to the ski jumps in 2020, she was thwarted by coronavirus. But the talent didn't let up, initially making sporadic appearances in the World Cup, her breakthrough came in Ljubno, where she took her first World Cup victory in January 2021. This was followed two weeks later by third place in Hinzenbach, but the hill in Austria would once again determine the young woman's fate. In the third competition, Kvandal crashed heavily, tearing the meniscus, cruciate ligament and collateral ligament in her right knee.

It took another winter before she made her comeback. And this time, the Norwegian mostly stood out because her coach often voluntarily shortened the inrun for her. According to FIS rules, this often led to Kvandal not making it onto the podium because she couldn't get the bonus points.

Until the jumping in Oslo. At Holmenkollen of all places, the holy grail of the Norwegian ski jumping elite, the knot burst and Kvandal sailed to the top of the podium at the start of the RAW Air Tour, ending a short dry spell for the Scandinavians, who had previously been trailing behind the Slovenians and the jumpers from Austria in particular. But that's not all: once in form, Kvandal also took victory after victory in Trondheim and finally at the ski flying event in Vikersund, won the overall ranking, secured herself an additional 40,000 euros in prize money and became a star, and not just in her Norwegian homeland. 

In the shadow of Kvandal, so to speak, another Norwegian star rose in Vikersund. Compatriot Silje Opseth, who sailed to an incredible 230 meters on the so-called "Monsterbakken", setting a new world record in women's ski flying. In the trial round, Opseth had even sailed to 236.5 meters, but crashed on landing. Although she was uninjured apart from major abrasions to her face, the flight was not considered a record.

But the World Cup season is not yet over for the two Norwegians. The caravan moves on once again, this time to the Karawanken, to Planica in Slovenia. There is one more jumping event there, then the winter is over, for Kvandal certainly with a good feeling, for Opseth with a few scratches and the world record in her pocket.


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