2014 Winter Olympics Preview: Ski Jumping

( - A part of the Olympic Winter Games since 1924, ski jumping has expanded to three different events in the men's division and finally an individual normal hill event for the women that will debut at the Sochi Games.

For the men, there are two individual events that involve distances of 70 and 90 meters, with each athlete getting two jumps and the individual with the highest combined score being recognized as the winner.

There is also a team competition at 90 meters involving four-man teams -- an event that was added in 1988. The field in the team round is narrowed to just eight after the first jump.

European countries continue to be the main players in ski jumping. Four years ago the same three jumpers medaled in both individual events at the Vancouver Olympics. Switzerland's Simon Ammann won both golds, Adam Malysz of Poland captured double silver and Austrian Gregor Schlierenzauer won the bronze two times over.

With the help of Schlierenzauer, Austria grabbed the gold in the team event four years ago as well, while Germany and Norway picked up the silver and bronze in that order.

Nick Fairall won the U.S. Olympic trials in December, but the Americans are not expected to medal in the men's event. No American has placed in the top 10 of an Olympic ski jumping event since 1988 and the U.S. won its only medal in the event -- a bronze -- at the inaugural Winter Games in 1924.

Joining Fairall on the American squad are Nick Alexander, Peter Frenette and Anders Johnson, but the top competitors will come from other countries.

Ammann has won four individual Olympic gold medals, also capturing two in 2002, while Schlierenzauer is just 24 but is already among the top jumpers in the world and placed first in the 2013 World Cup standings.

Austria's Thomas Morgenstern made his country's team despite suffering head and lung injuries in a scary crash Jan. 10 during training for a World Cup event. Morgenstern was the individual large hill champion in 2006 and also captured gold as part of Austria's winning team in the event. He was part of the team that won team gold in 2010 as well.

The sport is breaking new ground at the Olympics with the addition of a women's competition.

While women have been participating in the sport for more than a century, the International Olympic Committee determined that the sport lacked universality until as recently as 2006.

On April 6, 2011, the IOC finally announced that a women's ski jumping event was being added for Sochi.

Jessica Jerome earned her berth by winning the U.S. Olympic trials. Sarah Hendrickson, who tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee in August, also made the U.S. team, along with Lindsey Van.

Jumping begins on Feb. 8 with the men's qualifications on the normal hill and commences Feb. 17 with the men's team competition.