People of a certain vintage will remember the poor sap who landed in a crumpled heap after first flinging himself awkwardly off a ski jump. Every Saturday. On ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
His name was Vinko Bogataj. That wipeout at Oberstdorf in March 1970 cost him a mild concussion and a broken ankle, but offered him everlasting fame as “the agony of defeat” guy.
Taylor Henrich is not of that vintage. But she’s a ski jumper, so she has some empathy for the bruised and battered Bogataj. And she knows all too well what it’s like to land in a crumpled heap.
She’s just 22 and can count at least five concussions, two of them related to crashes.
“I think I’m at my fifth concussion, but not all from ski jumping,” she said during a November interview. “One from volleyball: running backwards, tripped over my foot and hit the stage at (Simon Fraser University). Two from ski jumping, falling and smacking my head. And I’m pretty sure I’ve had a concussion from wrestling and kick boxing with my brother.”
Her first concussion was most definitely from ski jumping during a really windy day at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, her hometown.
“Being a kid, it was, ‘let’s go for it.’ I dove off the takeoff, head planted into the ground, dropped both tips and just tomahawked,” she said.
“A lot of people catch an edge. The most severe crash you can have is a tip-in. So you drop one or two tips into the ground and you smack your head. That’s pretty rare if you know what you’re doing. But as kids, you don’t really know and you’re just kind of diving for it.”
She said she hasn’t had a concussion for seven years and feels fine. The thrills and spills of ski jumping fit perfectly with her personality.
“I will try everything. I surf when I’m not jumping. I wakeboard. I water ski. I’ve even tried skydiving and definitely want to take that one up.”
The risks don’t worry her anymore, and the payoff at the end of a great jump is still worth it.
“I just go for it. If something bad happens, whoops, that was a mistake, and move on. When you have that perfect, easy flowing jump and you fly all the way down to the bottom and land, you’re like, ‘that was solid, that was wicked.’”
And the sport isn’t really that dangerous once you get the hang of it.
“On the highest jump in the world, you’re no more than 10 metres in the air,” said fellow Canadian jumper Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes. “It’s usually closer to three.
“If you’ve been doing something your whole life, there is a whole other level of confidence that comes along with that. My sport doesn’t seem that extreme because I haven’t had too many serious injuries that were not my fault.”