BEIJING, China: Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi held his nerve while his rivals lost theirs on Sunday, winning Olympic ski jumping gold on the men’s normal hill in a wild and unpredictable Beijing Games final.
Germany’s World Cup leader Karl Geiger finished 15th in a disastrous performance, while hotly tipped Norwegians Halvor Egner Granerud and Marius Lindvik were also well out of contention.
Kobayashi kept his cool to become the first Japanese ski jumper to win Olympic gold on foreign snow, pulling off jumps of 104.5 and 99.5 meters to finish first on 275.0 points.
“This season I’ve been able to jump to the image I have in my mind,” said the 25-year-old, who is second in the current World Cup standings and won this season’s Four Hills competition.
“Of course there have been times where it hasn’t gone well but I have confidence that I can compete to be on the podium. I’m glad I believed in myself.”
Austrian veteran Manuel Fettner claimed silver on 270.8 points, while Poland’s Dawid Kubacki took bronze on 265.9.
Geiger came into the event as a strong contender for gold but struggled all week in practice at Zhangjiakou.
His first jump of 96m was only good enough for 21st place at the halfway point, while his second effort of 99m pushed him only six places higher.
“I did my best, it was not good enough,” said Geiger.
“I’m not quite sure what exactly happened and why.”
Kobayashi said there was “a lot of pressure” on Geiger, but there were also huge expectations on the Japanese jumper.
He was bidding to become the first individual Japanese winner on the Olympic normal hill in 50 years, and he said his experience of the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, when he finished seventh, made him better equipped to deal with it.
Ludwig wards off tough challenge from Austria's Kindl
Germany’s Johannes Ludwig said he was happy to put on a show to secure Olympic gold in the men’s luge on Sunday after holding off a challenge from Austria’s Wolfgang Kindl.
“There was always a small gap between Wolfgang and me, so I said to myself before the last two rounds, ‘let’s make a game of it, it’s the Olympic Games’,” said Ludwig.
“I hoped to make a bit of a show for the people here to watch, that was important for me,” he said, even though his victory was only cheered by a small crowd of athletes and coaches at the Yanqing Sliding Center — tickets were not sold to the public because of coronavirus fears.
Clocking speeds of 133 kilometers (83 miles) per hour, Ludwig took gold with a winning combined time of three minutes, 48.735 seconds, finishing just 0.160sec ahead of silver medallist Kindl.
Italy’s Dominik Fischnaller won bronze, 0.951sec back.
It was a first individual gold for Ludwig having won singles bronze and team relay gold four years ago in Pyeongchang.
He turns 36 in a week’s time and admitted this may be his last Olympics.
“I had a lot of years when I didn’t qualify for the Olympics — in 2010, 2014 — and was often one step off the podium at the world champs, but I kept going so I am happy to have done this,” he added.
Ludwig, this winter’s overall World Cup winner, had roared into the lead with a new track record in Saturday’s opening heat.
However, he led overnight by just 0.039 of a second after Kindl, crowned European champion a fortnight ago, was fastest in the second heat.
The German lowered the track record for the second time in 24 hours in Sunday’s third heat, then clinched victory with an impressive fourth run.
Despite just missing out on gold, Kindl was happy with his silver.