This weekend, Japanese ski jumper Ryoyu Kobayashi broke Europe’s decades-long domination of the ski jump World Cup by becoming the first non-European man to win the overall title.
Kobayashi didn’t medal in Pyeongchang, but since the Olympics he has dominated the World Cup circuit, recording six consecutive wins in the 2018-19 season (he has 11 wins in total). Though he didn’t win the big hill event this weekend in Norway—he placed fifth—he was so far ahead in points that this finish didn’t change the World Cup standings.
“This is the biggest (feat) for me personally. It might be even bigger than (winning) the Olympics,” Kobayashi said of his accomplishment.
According to ski jump lore, the sport originated in Norway in the early 18th Century when a lieutenant in the Norwegian army “launched himself 9.5 meters through the air ‘to show his soldiers what a courageous fellow he was.’” And since that first jump, the sport has largely been dominated by “courageous fellows” from Europe, with the exception of the 1998 Olympic gold medalist Kazoyushi Funaki, who won the large hill title, and Yukio Kasaya who won the normal hill Olympic gold in 1972. (Funaki finished second in the overall World Cup standings during the 1998 season.)
Here’s Kobayashi’s winning jump in at the Four Hills Tournament earlier this year.
Kobayashi is from Iwate Prefecture, which was one of the areas badly damaged in the Great East Japan Earthquake. His win came on the eighth anniversary of that natural disaster.