Partizipative Projekte aus dem Bereich der Japanologie

17. January 2023 von Christian Wielander

Ski jumping in transition – From Kasai to Kobayashi

Skiing always produces outstanding personalities, such as the two Japanese ski jumpers Kasai Noriaki and Kobayashi Ryōyū. Kasai made his World Cup debut in the 1980s. That was a time when ski jumping was very different. Even today, the crowd favourite still trains, among others, with Kobayashi. The latter stands out, above all, for his athletic successes. With Kobayashi, who has been jumping in the World Cup since 2015, a promising future awaits the Japanese ski jumping sport.

I was able to determine Kasai’s great popularity in the course of a scientific analysis of articles from a wide variety of news platforms. Another aspect that emerged along the way is that Kobayashi could be the focus of this sport as well as the media in the future.

Brilliant performances, unique selling points, or a very long-lasting career – this is how professional athletes usually make a name for themselves. These three characteristics also apply to the Japanese ski jumper Kasai Noriaki. The athlete, born in 1972, was internationally active as a ski jumper for about 30 years. His omnipresence in ski jumping, not least his likable appearance, made Kasai a public favourite over the years. But he does not only have Japanese fans. When he places well, all the other jumpers, coaches, and spectators rejoice with him, whether they are from Japan or another nation. During his career, he had not only taken part in many competitions and made many good jumps, but has also seen colleagues come and go. When Kasai jumped in the World Cup at the end of the 1980s, the nowadays common jumping style, in which the skis form a V during flight, was not yet used by every jumper. Kasai also started his career with the original parallel style.

But not only the techniques of the athletes, but also their equipment and jumping distances, the hills from which they jump, the introduction of a World Cup for women, as well as the attention and coverage of the media, have changed a lot since Kasai’s career began. After all, his career spans almost four decades.

While Kasai has not been fielded for the World Cup for the last three years in a row, there is another athlete on the Japanese squad who has been the talk of the town recently. Kobayashi Ryōyū is best known for his outstanding performances. He achieved good placings and victories in competitions such as the 2018/19 Four Hills Tournament, the 2021/22 Overall World Cup, and the 2022 Winter Olympics. Even Kasai cannot show some of these placings and achievements in his (previous) career, which the 26-year-old Kobayashi achieved within six years. Nevertheless, his perseverance in jumping is what sets him apart, especially his ability to keep up with jumpers half his age. Since the two athletes belong to the same club and train together, they benefit from each other’s strengths.

The aim of my research was to find out how the ski jumper Kasai Noriaki is portrayed in media coverage. Specifically, Western media were examined, especially German-language news platforms such as “Der Standard”, “Skispringen.com” or the “Neue Züricher Zeitung”. In the course of the work, it was found that Kasai is almost without exception portrayed positively, regardless of the origin of the article or the athlete’s current performance. In addition, the research uncovered an interesting connection that was not part of the research question itself. Within the last few years, Kobayashi has gained a position similar to the one Kasai once held – that of the most famous Japanese ski jumper.

How Kobayashi and the sport of ski jumping will develop in the future is still written in the stars. Fundamental changes in the sport, as there have been time and again in the past, are not on the horizon (at least at the moment). But if the last 30 years have shown us one thing, it is that ski jumping will continue to produce exciting developments and outstanding personalities.

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