Germany edges Austria for team jumping gold
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Germany ended Austria’s domination of ski jumping’s team event by winning gold under the lights at RusSki Gorki Jumping Center on Monday night.
On a cool evening with almost no wind, in the last ski jumping event of the Olympics, Severin Freund assured his team’s victory by a razor-thin 2.7 points with a 131-meter effort on the last jump of the night. Austria took silver and Japan bronze. “I didn’t know the difference between Germany and Austria (in points) and it was okay this way,” Freund said. “I thought only about what I had to do. The worst part of it was to wait. It seemed to me that the waiting (for the final score) was very, very long.”
Asked if he was sure his jump had been enough, he said, “I was zero percent sure. From the reaction of the others I knew it would be close. … I don’t know how you measure pressure but I did feel nervous. It was a perfect day for us. Everything went in our direction.”
For Germany’s Andreas Wank, the team gold was his second Olympic medal after his team silver from Vancouver in 2010, while his three teammates – Freund, Marinus Kraus and Andreas Wellinger – all celebrated their first Olympic medals. Germany’s victory gave it a record three Olympic golds in the team event; the Germans won previously at Lillehammer in 1994 and Salt Lake City in 2002.
It was Austria’s first defeat in a team event at the Olympic or world championship level since the 2003 world championships. The silver, though, gave it a medal in team jumping at the Olympics for a record sixth time.
The U.S. team of Peter Frenette, Nicholas Fairall, Anders Johnson and Nicholas Alexander failed to qualify for the final round, finishing 10th in the first round; only the top eight teams qualified to the final jumps. Alexander had the longest jump of the night for the U.S., at 126.5 meters.
Fairall summed up the feelings of his teammates about the Sochi Olympics: “It was just an amazing experience. Being able to represent your country is incredible. It’s not like you’re wearing a team logo or team uniform, you’re actually wearing a nation’s flag. To be able to do it with all the other athletes and other U.S. Olympians competing against the world … it’s a great experience.”
Japan’s bronze was its first Olympic medal in the team event since it won the gold in Nagano in 1998. Noriaki Kasai equalled Kazuyoshi Funaki and Masahiko Harada as the only Japanese ski jumpers to have won three Olympic medals.
Gregor Schlierenzauer of Austria said the silver medal was just fine with him, especially given some of the problems the team has faced at the Sochi Games. “I’m happy with the medal,” he said. “It’s been hard these last days. We had some problems. I was not in perfect shape. It was a hard fight. The teams are really strong, but a medal is always great and silver is very good. … It was very, very close. I did not do the best jump, but four or five points is really nothing.”
Poland’s Kamil Stoch, who had won all the gold medals there were to win in men’s jumping before today by sweeping the normal hill and large hill competitions, said of his team, “We fought to the end but it wasn’t to be today.”
Skier from Belarus claims aerial gold
The Belarussians have a history with the freestyle discipline of aerials that goes back as far as the sport. On Monday evening, Anton Kushnir became the second consecutive Belarussian aerial gold medalist and he did so in no uncertain terms, concluding his night with a back double-full, full, double full, or five twists in three flips. He executed the trick cleanly and landed precisely for a score of 134.50, well above the silver medal tally of 110.41 from Australian David Morris.
With the new aerials format working down to just four competitors in the final, the last two competitors, both from China, fought for the bronze medal despite both of them falling while trying to land their jumps. Judges gave the bronze to Jia Zongyang.
Mac Bohonnon was the only U.S. skier in the competition. Appearing in his first Olympics, he finished fifth, landing a full, double full, full and just missing the final round. “If you had told me in October that I would be at the Olympics I would have had a hard time believing you,” he said. “And then if you told me I would get fifth I definitely wouldn’t have believed you.”
He said it was gratifying “to prove to myself that on the Olympic stage, with the most pressure, I can stay in my routine and not get too worked up. I’ve trained for this for six years and it’s an unbelievable feeling to see it pay off. Especially since the field here is insanely competitive.” He said that training and going to school at the USSA Academy “has helped me get the extra edge I needed to get me where I am today. To have everything I need to succeed at my fingertips makes all the difference to me as an athlete.”
Kushnir said he planned coming into the event to unleash the extremely difficult “quint” in his final jump. He said he didn’t know how many times he had practiced it. “I can’t say I did a lot of times, but I practiced it and it worked out well,” he said. Having his 2-year-old son in the stands he said, allowed him to jump “longer and with more power.”
The silver medalist was a bit overwhelmed, saying, “I want to throw up I feel so sick. I am the only boy in Australia doing this. I was told I wouldn’t be good enough and now I have a silver medal at the Winter Olympics. It got crazy because those guys were chucking down big tricks. I just landed my trick and made them beat me.”
Rain and fog bring schedule changes in the mountains
Athletes in the Sochi Mountain Cluster awoke on Monday to the first really crummy day of the Olympic Winter Games. Fog at high elevation and periodic rain characterized most of the day at Rosa Khutor, enough so organizers were forced to postpone the men’s snowboard cross until Tuesday.
On the alpine slope, it was a day off from racing. Many tech athletes, however, were on the hill training, and at least one, Ted Ligety, took to his Facebook page to note that the thick fog was vertigo-inducing.
The weather is not expected to be any better tomorrow for the women’s giant slalom. Rain is again in the forecast for Tuesday with a freezing point expected midway up the course. The conditions might not be a disadvantage for American hopeful Mikaela Shiffrin, who this season has won in nasty weather, both in Bormio and Flachau, saying it reminds her of racing on the East Coast.
Organizers have moved the first run of the giant slalom up to 9:30 a.m. local time in hopes getting out in front of the weather.
Coming up tomorrow:
(all times for Sochi; subtract nine hours for EST)
Alpine. Women’s giant slalom at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center. The first run is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., and the second for 1 p.m. For the U.S. team, the competitors will be Mikaela Shiffrin (starting sixth in the first run), super combined bronze medalist Julia Mancuso (17th), Megan McJames (33rd) and Resi Stiegler (41st). Canada will be represented by Marie-Michelle Gagnon (eighth), Marie-Pier Prefontaine (21st) and Erin Mielzynski (36th).
Snowboard. The men’s snowboard cross was postponed from Monday to Tuesday at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. The 1/8 finals will take place at 10:30 a.m., the quarters at 10:56, the semis at 11:10 and the finals at 11:18.
Freestyle. The men’s ski halfpipe at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park gets under way with qualifying at 5:45 p.m. The first run of the finals will be at 9:30 and the second run at 10.
Nordic combined. The large hill jump/10km ski combined event will be held at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center, with the ski jumping at 1:30 p.m. and the 10km race at 4 p.m.