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4-Hills: Austria celebrates with Loitzl


In German there is but one word for it; Vierschanzentournee, in English, we call it the Four Fills Tournee, No matter how you say it or spell it, it always means excitement. Now in it’s 57th season, the tournee takes place annually in Germany and Austria, and it is one of the world’s most sought after titles.

The Organizing Committee’s of the 4 Hills at Oberstdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Innsbruck and Bischofshofen scored a much need break this season with cold temperatures for snow making. So the ski jumps were prepared to exceptional standards, and the sport was rewarded with huge crowds.In German there is but one word for it; Vierschanzentournee, in English, we call it the Four Fills Tournee, No matter how you say it or spell it, it always means excitement. Now in it’s 57th season, the tournee takes place annually in Germany and Austria, and it is one of the world’s most sought after titles.

The Organizing Committee’s of the 4 Hills at Oberstdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Innsbruck and Bischofshofen scored a much need break this season with cold temperatures for snow making. So the ski jumps were prepared to exceptional standards, and the sport was rewarded with huge crowds.

Day One—Oberstdorf, GER— Dec. 29
Prior to the start of this season everyone pondered who would pick up the mantle following the retirement of Finnish jumping legend, Janne Ahonen , who won the Four Hills last year. Who would have guessed the answer would lay in the presence of Swiss jumper Simon Ammann ?  Ammann’s Summer training had been good, and he swept most of the first World Cup events. So in Oberstdorf in front of about 80,000 screaming fans he won the first event without much trouble. “Mr. Runner-Up” Wolfgang Loitzl of Austria was again second. The Germany squad under new Head Coach Werner Schuster, has brought some of the luster back in the form of much improved performances for the likes of Martin Schmitt, Michael Uhrmann and Michael Neumayer, while world cup rookie jumper Stephan Hocke  has proved this season he belongs on the big show, and not on the Continental Cup.

Day Two—-Garmisch-Partenkirchen, GER—Jan. 01, 2009
What an elegant place to  celebrate New Year’s day, on the brand new ski jumps in Garmisch.  What added to the magic on a slighty foggy day for a festive crowd was the  long-awaited victory by Mr. Runner Up, Wolfgang Loitzl of Austria, with a huge first jump of 140 meters that nearly set a hill record followed by a perfect final leap to defeat Simon Ammann in the second round of the Four Hills. Young Finn Harri Olli was third. What nudged Loitzl to victory was his leap of 136.5 meters and perfect 60 style points that set up a stiff challenge to Ammann. Ammann’s second jump was two meters shorter and he lost valuable style points, setting up the win for the 28 year-old Austrian, Loitzl. Kudos must go to American ski jumpers from Project X, Anders Johnson of Park City and Nick Fairall of Andover, NH for being at the big show for qualifying. At Garmisch ,Fairall qualified for the knockout round.

Following the first two days of the tournee Loitzl moved into the overall Tour points lead by a scant margin, leading Ammann, the reborn Swiss star by just one point. Austrian Thomas Morgenstern who won four straight World Cups last year, seemed to find some handle on his elusive jumping this year by recording a long 132 meter on his first ride, not surprisingly he recently was awarded his single engine rating to fly planes over Austria. Gregor Schlierenzauer, also of Austria failed to provide a stiff challenge for either Loitzl or Ammann, which surprised everyone. However, the tournee moved to Innsbruck, which may be just the ticket for the Austrian eagles to soar even more than here in Garmisch. Host Germany failed to put anyone on the top three steps of the podium, which was a large disappointment, for their new Head Coach Werner Schuster.

On Tuesday night  in front of an enormous crowd at the fabled final stop of the Four Hills Tournee in Bischofshofen, AUT, Austria celebrated like never before when the  28 year-old Wolfgang Loitzl soared to two nearly perfect jumps and won the final leg of the tournee and the overall crown. His two leaps of 142.5 and 141.5, coupled with style points at 20′s. For a men who never before won a World Cup until the tournee got underway, nicknamed “Mr. Runner-Up”, this victory in the Four Hills is not only about winning but also redemption.

Despite struggling with shorter than expected jumps, Simon Ammann, still the overall World Cup leader finished in second while Dimitry Vassiliev of Russia was third. Kudos also must go out to Park City jumper Anders Johnson, who skis for the self funded program that also seeks outside donations, known as Project X and qualified for his first-ever World Cup event. Johnson also attended the Tournee with Nick Fairall of Andover, NH, along with Project X Head Coach Jochen Danneberg, himself a 4 Hills winner in 1976 and 1977.

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