Roglič plays up to the ski jump thing at the 2019 Vuelta a España.

Would Primož Roglič have been in the mix at the Winter Olympics?

Some back of the napkin calculations about Primož Roglič, known ski jumper.

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“Primož Roglič, the ex-ski jumper …” – as cycling commentary clichés go, it’s one of the all-time classics of the modern era, trotted out whenever Primož Roglič does A Thing. And the Slovenian superstar does plenty of Things: in recent years, he’s picked up ¡three successive Vueltas a España!, five Grand Tour podium finishes, and an Olympic Gold Medal.

And yet, we’re still talking about his ski jumping. 

Right this very second in Beijing, of course, the Winter Olympics are underway. It’s the usual quadrennial monument to the cravenly commercial Olympic movement naked nationalism The Slippery Sports. And as such, it’s one of those (also quadrennial) times that the world’s attention turns fleetingly to – you guessed it – ski jumping. 

Obviously, that got me thinking about Primož Roglič – about his previous sport, and about how good he was at it. And the logical next step when you’re thinking about that is to wonder this: would Primož Roglič have been in the mix at the Winter Olympics?

Let’s ponder that question with some (pretty haphazard) back of the napkin calculations. But first …

Some background

Known ski jumper Primož Roglič started ski jumping at the tender age of 10, which – as a parent of small children – strikes me as a rather premature point for a child to be flinging itself off a big hill at speed. Young Primož turned out to be quite adept at doing it, though.

“It was like flying. I liked the feeling. It’s something everyone dreams of doing,” Roglič said, reflecting on his ski jumping career in 2020. “I wanted to be the best ski jumper in the world.”

Ski jumping involves sliding down a steep snowy ramp on big skis, jumping off the end of that ramp, and flying through the air like a neoprene-clad sugar glider. Competitors are judged on distance and form – how smoothly they land, the extent to which they mask the fact that they’re on the cusp of death at any moment, etcetera – with some complicated scaling for wind speed and hill size. All the metrics are combined, and at the end of each jump, a number is spat out. The biggest number wins.

There are team events, and individual events. There are also two different size hills – ‘large hill’ and ‘normal hill’. People fly further on the large hill, on account of it being larger, but I would also contend that when you get right down to it, any hill is a large hill if you’re jumping off it at 100 km/h. 

We are not, so there is probably quite a bit more to it. But that’s the basic gist. 

For illustrative purposes, here is another Slovenian called Primož doing some ski jumping at some Winter Olympics. Which is an event that Primož Roglič has never competed at. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Primož Roglič, as you will have heard ad infinitum if you’ve recently watched a bike race with the sound on, is a former world junior ski jumping champion. That result came at the 2007 Junior World Ski Championships in Tarvisio, Italy, in the men’s team event. Roglič was the star performer of the winning four-man Slovenian team, scoring 442 points – which is certainly a number, although I have no idea what it means, because ski jumping is confusing. Our dude was the second-highest scoring ski jumper in the competition, with only one better Japanese jumper from a worse team managing a few more points. 

If that was the high point, there’s one clear low point in Roglič’s ski-jumping career: a brutal crash – also in 2007 – on the Planica ski jump that sent the young Slovenian tumbling very painfully for a very long time over a very long distance. “I did not have the respect or fear that day,” Roglič mused later. “At that time I thought I could do everything, jump more than 200 metres – you learn that you need the respect.” 

Here is a video of the crash that you can’t actually see without verifying your age, such is the violent outcome of Roglič’s lack of respect (he was fine):

In total, Roglič competed in about 150 ski jumping meets from 2003 to 2011, winning two Continental Cups and setting a personal best of 185 metres (607 feet), also at the notorious Planica hill. Then, he switched to cycling.

There was an adjustment period: “When I was still a ski jumper, we weren’t allowed to cycling too much because you need the quick muscles and cycling it’s all the same movements a lot of time and you lose your speed,” he told CyclingNews in 2016. “At the end of my ski jumping career, I bought myself a bike and discovered that I am pretty good with it.”

And all these years later, here we are – with Primož Roglič, the former ski-jumper and current-day bicycle champion. 

Primož Roglič, gold medal-winning summer Olympian.

So: does Primoz stack up? 

In a very roundabout way, that leads us to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, a triumph of sportswashing the Uyghur genocide not mentioning Taiwan state-sanctioned doping The Slidey Sports. Slovenia won lots of medals in the ski-jumping, and Primož Roglič wasn’t there on account of having retired 11 years previously. 

In the men’s normal hill – comparing on distance alone with his 2007 Junior Worlds jumps – Roglič wouldn’t have been in the mix, because he was in the humid thick of puberty at the time and these are fully-grown adults who have been doing it for longer, at a higher level.

In the large hill event, it gets more interesting: at Beijing, Norway’s Marius Lindvik – the gold medal winning jumper – went 140 m. Which is obviously a very far way to fly through the air with skis on your feet, but also 45 metres less than Roglic’s PB at Planica more than a decade earlier. 

Now, I don’t know if Planica qualifies as a large hill or whether there’s an extra-jumbo division. Maybe there was a stonking tailwind that day. Maybe Roglič entered some floaty zen state where, even when he landed, he never really landed at all. That kind of checks out – after all, we’re still talking about him as a world champion ski jumper, 15 years after the fact, when he’s done quite a lot since.

So: in the absence of any other meaningful comparative data (/I mostly can’t be bothered looking for it), I’m prepared to call this one: Primož Roglič is the Beijing 2022 ski-jumping gold medallist of our hearts.

And until Marius Lindvik wins a Grand Tour, I reckon that’s case closed.

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