When it comes to ski jumping, Edina resident David Zarling discovered he's a late bloomer.
Despite starting the sport early at age 8 or 9 and traveling around the country to participate in elite competitions, Zarling said his longest jumps have come after turning 50.
"It is a very mental sport. It's maturity, it's all of those things," he said.
Zarling jumps with the Minneapolis Ski Club at its facility in Bloomington. His wife and three sons have followed him into the sport since the family moved to Minnesota in 2008.
But for many years, Zarling didn't jump at all. He worked in Korea and attended grad school.
"You need to live near a ski jump to do it," he said.
The first couple of years after moving to Minnesota, Zarling observed the sport from the sidelines, doubting he'd be able to pick it up again. Then he decided to try to relearn the sport and started back on the smallest hill, just as he had done as a kid.
Soon, he was able to tackle bigger and bigger hills. Last year, he skied a 110-meter hill and recorded a 90-meter jump.
"It's been spectacular," Zarling said. "I've had longer jumps at the age of 50 than I did at the age of 20."
Zarling doesn't consider ski jumping a dangerous sport, but he said there are inherent risks. "If you were afraid to fall you would not be doing this sport," he said.
Jumping is a precise motion that involves a lot of practice, he says, and you have to learn how to fall correctly by staying relaxed.
"None of us want to fall, but you can have 10 to 20 crashes a year and get up and walk away," he said.
Ski jumping competitions begin at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on Saturday, Feb 8.