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    Friday, February 20, 1998

    Changes could affect shorter jumpers

     HAKUBA, Japan (AP) -- The International Ski Federation is considering limits on the length of jumping skis that could handicap shorter athletes.
     Harald Aarhus of Norway, the chairman of the Nordic combined committee in the FIS, said the proposal is aimed at allowing "normal and grown up" jumpers to win, "not just very young and thin."
     Under the proposal, the maximum length of jumping skis would be 146 percent of a jumper's height. The present rules allow skis that are up to 31 1/2 inches longer than a jumper's height, with a ceiling of 110 inches.
     For example, a 5-foot-7 jumper is now allowed skis about 98.5 inches, but under the new rules would be restricted to no more than 97.7 inches. A 5-11 skier, now restricted to 102.4 inches, would be allowed 103.5 inches.
     Ski jumpers tend to be short and light, and longer skis give them a better lift for longer jumping distances.
     Although many are teen-agers, there are many jumpers in their late 20s and various winners over the recent years differed in height, weight and age. Few are more than 5-10.
     Aarhus said the proposal was not aimed at Japanese jumpers, who won the 120K and the team gold medals at the Nagano Games. He said FIS officials were worried about young jumpers becoming afflicted with eating disorders, though he said he knows of no such cases.
     "Asian people tend to be shorter than Europeans, but I really think this is the best decision," Aarhus said.
     This year's leading Japanese jumpers, Masahiko Harada and Kazuyoshi Funaki, are both are 5-8. The gold medal winner in this year's 90K event, Jani Soininen of Finland, is 5-7.
     When asked to comment, Japanese ski jumping coach Manabu Ono said he thought the proposed rule would handicap shorter jumpers.
     The FIS general congress will rule on the proposal during its session in Prague in May, Aarhus said.