Berliner Boersenzeitung - Japanese ski-jumping duo poised to soar in pursuit of Olympic gold

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Japanese ski-jumping duo poised to soar in pursuit of Olympic gold
Japanese ski-jumping duo poised to soar in pursuit of Olympic gold

Japanese ski-jumping duo poised to soar in pursuit of Olympic gold

Japan are pursuing a ski-jumping double when the Beijing Games start this week and victory would be especially sweet for Sara Takanashi as she looks to lay her Olympic demons to rest.

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Four-time overall World Cup champion Takanashi is one of the most decorated jumpers of all time but Olympic success has eluded her and she admits being "swallowed up" at past Winter Games.

Now the 25-year-old is looking to win her first gold in Beijing and team-mate Ryoyu Kobayashi is hoping to make it a one-two for Japan when he goes into the men's event as favourite.

Kobayashi has been in red-hot form this season and almost claimed a sweep of the Four Hills competition last month.

Only two Japanese ski jumpers have ever won individual Olympic gold and Takanashi and Kobayashi have the chance to become the first to manage the feat on foreign snow.

"It looks like a really flashy jump and I'm looking forward to it," Kobayashi said of the competition venue in Zhangjiakou, about 180 kilometres (110 miles) northwest of Beijing.

The addition of a mixed team event at the Beijing Games gives Japan even more chance of success, but every competition is expected to be fiercely contested.

In the women's event Norway's Maren Lundby has opted not to defend her title. Austria's Marita Kramer has dominated the World Cup circuit this season and heads to Beijing as favourite.

But Takanashi, with a record 61 World Cup victories and 110 individual podium finishes to her name, is also likely to be in the mix in her third Olympics.

She looked nailed-on for the title when women's ski jumping made its Olympic debut at the 2014 Sochi Games, but instead she finished fourth in a shock upset.

She told AFP in November last year that she had been "completely swallowed up by the Olympic atmosphere" in Sochi.

She claimed bronze in Pyeongchang four years ago but said she felt more "relieved" than happy to win a medal.

Since then she has completely retooled her jumping style.

"My main target is to show people how much I've developed," she said.

"If I can do that, I think the results will follow."

- Going for gold -

In the men's event an injury to Poland's triple Olympic gold medallist Kamil Stoch means Kobayashi starts as favourite.

Stoch faces a race against time after hurting his ankle last month but Kobayashi will take some stopping even if his rival is fully fit.

The 25-year-old Kobayashi, an avid sneaker collector who shows viewers his latest purchases on his YouTube channel, has been in good form heading into the Games.

He trails Germany's Karl Geiger in the World Cup standings by only three points and has won eight times on this season's circuit.

After finishing seventh on the normal hill and 10th on the large hill in his Olympic debut four years ago, Kobayashi is ready to grab his opportunity.

"I went into it not really knowing what was going on, and before I knew it, it was all over," he said of his Pyeongchang experience.

"One thing that's different about this time is that now I'm going into it with expectations on me.

"My target is to win gold."

(K.Lüdke--BBZ)