Leaping to the front again
Ammann seizes large hill gold
WHISTLER, British Columbia - Switzerland’s Simon Ammann yesterday became the first ski jumper to win four individual Olympic titles with his victory in the large hill event.
Strapping on his disputed bindings again, Ammann flew past his main rivals, putting down the best jump in both rounds and staving off four Austrians who weren’t happy about his equipment.
Polish veteran Adam Malysz took silver and Austrian 20-year-old Gregor Schlierenzauer took the bronze - the exact finish as in the normal hill jump a week earlier.
Ammann held a commanding lead after the first round with a jaw-dropping 144-meter effort - 7 meters farther than Malysz. Focused on a good landing on his second jump, he soared 138 meters and nailed his landing for a total score of 283.6 points.
Malysz had 269.4 points and Schlierenzauer 262.2.
“What can I say? I was so nervous up there,’’ Ammann said. “This is all very nerve-racking. I always have this magical force to jump far here, and that is amazing. This is truly amazing.’’
His rivals thought so, too.
“He jumped unbelievable,’’ Malysz said.
After sliding into the flat following his second jump, Ammann pumped his right fist, pointed to the crowd at Whistler Olympic Park, then waited to see by how much he had won his fourth gold medal.
It wasn’t close.
Ammann also swept both individual events at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games as a brash 20-year-old, then had a disappointing performance in Turin. He bounced back a year later and has been among the best in his sport ever since.
“Simon is really amazing,’’ Schlierenzauer said.
Matti Nykanen of Finland also won four gold medals at the Winter Olympics, but one came in the team jump.
The International Ski Federation on Friday dismissed Austrian complaints that Ammann’s bindings violated regulations and gave him an unfair edge, clearing him to keep using the equipment in the large hill event - and allowing him to keep his medal from the normal hill competition.
Normal bindings use an elastic strap at the back to keep the boot in place. In the Swiss version, the boot is attached to a curved iron stick that bends forward as the jumper leans his body almost parallel to his skis.
The Austrians say the bindings help Ammann jump farther by improving his aerodynamics, and they asked the ski federation for a review. The Swiss, in turn, asked for a quick ruling, and FIS quickly determined that Ammann’s equipment met regulations.
Ammann said he never was worried that his binding would be disallowed, and Malysz suggested the Austrians were either jealous or playing psychological games with the World Cup leader.
The Austrians are the heavy favorites to win the team jump tomorrow.
There was a tie for the final spot after the first jump, so 31 competitors instead of usual 30 advanced to the second round.
Finland’s Janne Ahonen, who came out of retirement in hopes of his first individual medal at the Olympics, crashed on his trial jump. After a disappointing 125-meter performance in the first round, he bypassed his second jump.
Peter Frenette, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., finished 32d.