Olympians were absolutely furious as an unprecedented number of stars were disqualified from one event for wearing illegal outfits.
Slovenia won the inaugural Olympic ski jumping mixed team competition at the Beijing Games but the event was dominated by an unprecedented spate of disqualifications.
Five jumpers were disqualified for wearing loose-fitting suits — deemed to give athletes an advantage as they fly though the air.
The disqualified jumpers were women from the German, Japanese, Norwegian and Austrian teams.
Four-time world mixed team champions Germany were eliminated in the first round after Katharina Althaus was disqualified. Althaus tearfully accused the International Ski Federation (FIS) of “destroying women’s ski jumping”.
“We were so happy to have a second event (for women) here at the Olympics,” said Althaus, quoted by the German sports agency SID.
“The FIS destroyed everything with this operation. I think they have destroyed women’s ski jumping. I don’t know what they’re trying to do.”
“I have been checked so many times in 11 years of ski jumping, and I have never been disqualified once, I know my suit was compliant,” added Althaus, who burst into tears on learning of her disqualification.
Germany’s men’s coach Stefan Horngacher said “the disappointment is of course huge but the rules have to be accepted”.
“It is just strange that they have been using the same suits yesterday and there was no problem,” continued Horngacher.
“It is annoying that this happens at the Winter Olympic Games. This should all be cleared before,” he said, adding that it was “not good for the sport”.
Disqualifications in ski jumping are not uncommon but it is rare to see so many in one competition.
Austria’s Manuel Fettner said: “Usually you make it that clear, that everybody knows what’s allowed and what’s not.”
Some jumpers bristled at the focus being turned on the disqualified athletes. Canada’s Alexandria Loutitt said the rules were “more important” at the Olympics.
The controversy threatened to take the shine off the competition itself, which Slovenia won in dominating fashion.
They finished on 1,001.5 points, well clear of the Russians in second on 890.3 and Canada in third on 844.6.
Ursa Bogataj gave Slovenia its first ever ski jumping Olympic gold on Saturday when she won the women’s individual title. She was again in imperious form, combining with women’s bronze-medallist Nika Kriznar, Timi Zacj and Peter Prevc to claim another title.
“All the medals are really good for the development of the sport,” said Prevc. “Right now in Slovenia, there’s a lot of kids jumping on snow where there’s still some left from December. And it’s also the result of long years of good work with coaches and all the other stuff around us.”
Kriznar admitted that the spate of disqualifications began to play on her mind during the competition.
“For the first jump, I just focused and did a really good jump,” she said. “But the second jump, I’m a little bit nervous about all of these disqualifications.”
Ten teams, each made up of two men and women competed, with eight teams going through to the final round.
Japan, led by men’s normal hill champion Ryoyu Kobayashi, finished fourth after scraping into the final round following a disqualification for Sara Takanashi.
Takanashi, who finished fourth in the women’s individual event despite being fancied for the title, burst into tears after landing her second jump.
“I’ve seen a lot of Olympics but this was the first time I’ve seen anything like this,” said teammate Yukiya Sato.
“I was surprised, but jumpers prepare knowing the rules and it’s a competition so it’s not so strange to see this happen.”