Ryoyu Kobayashi of Japan seen in Akureyri, Iceland on April, 23, 2024.
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Ski Jumping

Beyond gravity: the top ski jumpers who redefined the sport

These flight masters don't shrink away when faced with the next great leap. We take a look at five of the all-time greatest ski jumpers who've soared astonishing distances.
Written by Ben Kissam
5 min readPublished on
"My older brother decided he wanted to compete in ski jumping. Always one to take after my brother, I said I also wanted to try it,” said ski jumper Ryōyū Kobayashi. “A few days later, I went to a 20-meter jump with my brother and dad for the first time. Of course, it was really scary at that age, so I didn't go off it.”
That was Kobayashi talking about his first encounter with a ski jump at three years old. Now 27, he’s one of ski jumping’s all-time greats.
Ryōyū Kobayashi performs a ski jump in Nagano, Japan on October 21, 2020.

Ryōyū Kobayashi takes flight in Japan

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Ski jumping has grown from its roots in 19th-century Norway into a highly competitive and technically advanced global sport.
A ski jumper’s goal is to soar the farthest distance they can after launching off a steep ramp. Some athletes can achieve speeds of 95 kilometres per hour or greater before launch, with the speed ski world record over 241 kph! In terms of distance, the average is 91 metres.
Aside from Kobayashi, who has dominated this sport? Here’s our list of the top five greatest ski jumpers (in no particular order) and what makes them stand out in the history of ski jumping.

Ryōyū Kobayashi

Ryoyu Kobayashi of Japan seen in Akureyri, Iceland on April 24, 2024.

Kobayashi celebrates his new world record

© Mihai Stetcu/Red Bull Content Pool

  • Number of Winter Olympic medals: 2 (1 Gold, 1 Silver)
  • World Championships: 2
  • Overall Wins: 31
Ryōyū Kobayashi recently broke the record for the longest ski jump in history, launching himself from a specially-created natural kicker in Iceland on April 24. The Japanese superstar soared through the air for around ten seconds before landing an incredible 291m from the launch point, shattering the ski flying and ski jump world record by 37.5m in the process.
In addition to this incredible feat, Kobayashi possesses a unique style that's characterized by an explosive, dynamic takeoff. He also has an unmatched ability to maintain a stable and aerodynamic position in flight. His graceful departure off the slope has also led to perfect scores at the highest level of competition.
In terms of victories, his most impressive accomplishments include winning the Four Hills Tournament on three occasions and topping the Ski Jumping World Cup rankings during the 2018/19 season.

Matti Nykänen

  • Number of Winter Olympic medals: 5 (4 Gold, 1 Silver)
  • World Championships: 4
  • Overall Wins: 46
You can’t talk about ski jumping history without discussing the Finnish ski jumper Matti Nykänen. During his career, he set the then world record for the longest ski jump in 1985: a distance of 187 metres. Nykänen was known for his smooth and fluid style, as well as his ability to maintain balance and control during his flights. He attributed his stocky body type (big shoulders and thin legs) for his ability to jump far, saying his frame could act like a “sail” when he caught a jump the right way.

Simon Ammann

  • Number of Winter Olympic medals: 4 (4 Gold)
  • World Championships: 1
  • Overall Wins: 23
Simon Ammann is a Swiss ski jumper whose remarkable career includes an unbelievable record-setting jump of 236.22 metres at the FIS World Cup Circuit in 2013. Ammann's style is characterised by his compact position during takeoff, as well as his ability to maintain his form in flight.
He's also known for his consistently precise landings. Ammann attributed his success to growing up on a farm where he had a hill that he learned how to jump on. He says his work ethic helped him develop precision and consistent technique in competition.

Kamil Stoch

  • Number of Winter Olympic medals: 4 (3 Gold, 1 Bronze)
  • World Championships: 2
  • Overall Wins: 39
Kamil Stoch is a Polish ski jumper known for his powerful takeoff, which has allowed him to launch over 134 metres in competition, and achieve even more impressive distances in trial runs. Stoch is also skilled at making adjustments mid-flight, allowing him to maintain his position and make a smooth landing. He credits his natural tendency to seek out thrill in his life as a motivating factor and says he practices his massive launches over and over again until he perfects them.

Adam Małysz

Adam Malysz performs a ski jump in Innsbruck, Germany in 2010.

Adam Malysz performs a ski jump in Innsbruck, Germany in 2010

© Mirja Geh/Red Bull Content Pool

  • Number of Winter Olympic medals: 4 (3 Silver, 1 Bronze)
  • World Championships: 4
  • Overall Wins: 39
Adam Malysz is a Polish jumper best known for his unique jumping style, which involves a quick and explosive takeoff followed by a streamlined and compact position in flight. He is also skilled at adjusting his body position to maintain stability and control during his flights. While he never took home a Winter Olympic gold medal, he was awarded three silvers across the 2002 and 2010 competitions. He also boasts the record for the most ski jumps ever landed over 200 metres, an astonishing 106 successful attempts!
The world of ski jumping has been graced with some incredible talents over the years, but these top five greatest ski jumpers on our list have taken the sport to the next level in terms of style and distance. Each has left an indelible mark on the sport, and some, like Kobayashi, continue to do so.

Part of this story

Ryōyū Kobayashi

A World Cup champion, two-time Four Hills winner and owner of the longest jump in history, Japanese star Ryōyū Kobayashi is a ski jumping legend.


Adam Malysz

One of the most successful ski jumpers in the history of the sport, Poland’s Adam Malysz is also a three-time finisher at the world-famous Dakar Rally.