LAKE PLACID — While thousands of Poles descended on to the Olympic Jumping Complex this past weekend for the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup, Austria’s Stefan Kraft stole the show.
Kraft, the current World Cup points leader, earned back a pair of wins in the super team competition on Saturday and the individual competition Sunday.
He won Sunday’s large hill Individual event with a combined 281.6 points after two jumps, edging out Slovenia’s Lovro Kos and Germany’s Philipp Raimund, who tied for second place with 278.4 points.
“It was a really close competition with (about) two points being decided on the podium today,” Kraft said. “I’m really satisfied with my jumps. I was really stable and really good. The conditions on the top weren’t so easy the first 30-meters, so I’m really proud that I managed this today.”
Kraft, a 2022 Olympic gold medalist, opened up Sunday’s competition by soaring to furthest jump into the qualification round, setting him up with a three-point lead over the second place jumper ahead of the final round.
Even with the lead, Raimund put the pressure on Kraft by recording the furthest jump of the day. Raimund soared 135 meters, which tied him with Kos.
“Philipp made a huge jump, but when you go down with the gate it’s not always easy,” Kraft said. “I knew I had to do a really great jump and I’m happy it worked.”
While Kraft didn’t have his best jump in the final round, leaping to 126 meters, he did enough to earn his eighth World Cup victory this season.
“(It’s) crazy. It’s my best season so far,” Kraft said.
Polish ski jumping fans were once again out in full force during this weekend’s World Cup, despite none of the Polish jumpers reaching the podium.
In Poland, ski jumping is one of the most popular sports, which is why most of the attendees were Polish-Americans, who traveled from all over the U.S. to watch the World Cup.
“Almost everywhere we are feeling like it’s home, especially here when a lot of Polish people came all over the U.S.,” Polish jumper Kamil Stoch said. “It’s amazing. No matter how far we are jumping, they are supporting us and giving us good energy.”
Stoch, a four-time Olympic medalist which includes three golds, had never competed in the U.S. before this weekend. However, he didn’t post the best results, placing 41st on Saturday and 24th on Sunday.
“I am a bit disappointed because of my performance,” he said. “I need to stay calm and stay positive. But anyway it was a nice weekend. I got a lot of positive energy, especially from the audience.”
Piotr Zyla had the best finish among the Polish team, finishing in fourth in Sunday’s individual competition. Poland’s Aleksander Zniszczol had a solid finish on Saturday placing sixth. In the super team event, Zniszczol and Dawid Kubacki finished in seventh.
On Sunday, Andrew Urlaub had the best finish for the U.S. team, placing 39th out of 50 jumpers with 99.9 points. The U.S. was rounded out by Casey Larson in 40th with 98.6 points, Kevin Bickner in 43rd with 96 and Decker Dean in 49th with 75.7.
Super team event
Competing in the super team event on Saturday evening, the Austrian team of Kraft and Michael Hayboeck secured a win by a small margin of 0.2 points. The German team of Philipp Raimund and Andreas Wellinger finished in second and third place went to Norway’s team of Marius Lindvik and Johann Andre Forfang.
“I had a good feeling (on Saturday) in the team competition and I had three really good jumps to get the team back,” Kraft said.
The German’s placed second with 809 points, while the Norwegians placed third with 793.6 points. The team from Japan with Ren Nikaido and Ryoyu Kobayashi finished in fourth place.
The surprise of the day came from the Italians, who finished in fifth place ahead of the teams from Slovenia, Poland and Switzerland.
The United States team of Larson and Urlaub placed 10th out of the 11 teams with 402.6 points.
In the opening World Cup event on Saturday morning, Slovenia’s Kos earned his first career World Cup medal, placing first in the HS128-meter individual event.
Facing difficult wind conditions, Kos had a two-jump total of 278.9 points, which edged out Japan’s Kobayashi (278.1 points) by a margin of 0.8. Norway’s Lindvik, was third with 277.8 points.
The 24-year-old was a bit surprised to earn his first career victory in Lake Placid “I knew I was close, but I didn’t think it was my time yet,” he said. “I think it was a different mindset, I went into the competition with a win in mind and I got (on the) podium.”
In Saturday’s trial round, Austria’s Kraft had the best result with a 127.5 meter jump for 152.3 points, but a mistake in the second and final round, which earned him 94.7 points after a 104-meter jump dropped him to 24th overall.
“I took too much risk,” he said. “I was too much aggressive, but that’s just my style. That’s Stefan Kraft and sometimes it doesn’t work so good.”
Larson was the top jumper for the U.S., placing 36th with 112.6 points. Bickner was 43rd with 103.0 and Urlaub was 48th with 90.
Long-time ski jumping competitor Simon Ammann of Switzerland recorded his 500th career World Cup start on Sunday.
He became just the second ski jumper to ever start in 500 World Cup events. Japan’s Noriaki Kasai, is the only other competitor with more starts.Kasai started in 569 World Cups from 1988 to 2020. Ammann said it was an honor to join an elite group, but doesn’t know if he’ll ever catch Kasai.
“I never look for the numbers,” Ammann said. “It’s always a difficult sport and I’m lucky I have really good (results). The last few (years) have been harder, but I don’t mind its just ski jumping.”
Ammann has won four Olympic gold medals and during his World Cup career he has finished on the podium 80 times, including 23 victories.