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Women ski jumpers at a disadvantage because of their mass?

  1. Feb 11, 2010 #1
    On last night's Rachel Maddow show, Bill Wolff made the claim that if women are allowed to compete in Olympic ski jumping, the competition must be changed to make it "fair". He said that women are at a disadvantage because of "less mass". He even mentions F=ma. But isn't his assumption totally false?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 11, 2010 #2
    Here is the 30-second video clip:
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  4. Feb 11, 2010 #3
    From today's NYT: "Body weight became a critical factor. The lighter a jumper was, the farther he could jump. Depending on the size of the hill used in competition, jumpers said, a weight loss of each kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, could result in added distance of two to four meters or 6½ to 13 feet." http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/12/sports/olympics/12skijump.html
  5. Feb 11, 2010 #4


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    I didn't look at your links, and I'm not into sports by any means, but I would think that a woman's lower centre of mass would be an advantage in ski jumping. Jumpers all lean into the airflow to minimize drag, and a woman would maintain more of her mass toward where the skis are than a man who would be inclined to fall forward. Just a semi-educated guess...

    edit: Sorry if I implied disinterest by not looking at your links. I've been up for over 30 hours and have had an awful lot of alcohol. I will look at your links when I feel able.
  6. Feb 11, 2010 #5


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    As the NY Times article mentioned, the lighter jumpers have an advantage, depending on the rules about ski size versus height, mass, and body mass index. The starting bar position is set based on how far down the hill the competitors are landing. If it's short of the target range, the bar is raised, if the competitors are landing too far, the bar is lowered. Normally this is figured out during practice. During a round, if the jumpers are landing too far down the hill, the bar is lowered, and the round is rerun.

    If the women jumpers are using a higher starting bar position, it's simply to get their landings within the same target range as the men, regardless of the reason.
  7. Feb 11, 2010 #6
    So just to confirm: the difference between men and women ski jumpers is solely based on skill level and not anatomical differences as Bill Wolff claimed?
  8. Feb 11, 2010 #7


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    "Less mass" is an ADVANTAGE is ski jumping. This is the reason why anorexia is relatively common among male ski jumpers.
    So no, the difference is not only due to skill level. Women should -on average- be better than men.
    But which gender that is best on average means absolutely nothing when it comes to top level athletes, simply because they are -by definition- outliers in any distribution.

    The real difference in sports like these tend to have more to do with the proportion of make-female athletes, if 99% of all competitors are men it is fairly natural that most of the really good athletes are men as well.

    It is quite obvious that Mr. Wolff does not know much about ski jumping...
  9. Feb 11, 2010 #8
    Thanks! I found your information extremely informative.
  10. Feb 11, 2010 #9


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    That explains why women aren't allowed in the olympic ski jump event.

    I was wondering why there was such a strong objection to women in tight outfits in a very TV-friendly action sport.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2010
  11. Feb 12, 2010 #10
  12. Feb 12, 2010 #11
    Yes, but in that record attempt I thought that she started higher up the hill (which would obviously be an advantage). That's what they say in the video.
  13. Feb 12, 2010 #12
    Women will not be at any disadvantage since they will only be competing with other women.
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