Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Ammann 2nd jumper ever to win gold on both hills
PARK CITY, Utah -- Simon Ammann was 8 when he first started ski jumping off a training hill in the shadows of the Swiss Alps.
He didn't fly, however, until coming to Utah.
Ammann soared above the Wasatch Mountains and into Olympic history Wednesday, winning his second gold medal of the Salt Lake City Games by surprising the field in the 120-meter ski jump.
The 20-year-old Swiss, who looks as if he could pass for 14, joined Finland's Matti Nykanen as the only jumpers to win events on both hills in the same Winter Olympics. Nykanen did it in Calgary in 1988.
"I am trembling," said Ammann, whose country doesn't even have a 120-meter training hill. "It's been a crazy day, a crazy week. I never would have believed this was possible. I felt good, but I never thought I would win again."
Ammann won his country's first gold in ski jumping with his victory at 90 meters Sunday. He had been overlooked leading up to the Olympics, overshadowed by favorites Sven Hannawald and Adam Malysz.
Malysz of Poland won the silver medal Wednesday and Matti Hautamaeki of Finland won the bronze. Malysz also won a bronze at 90 meters.
Ammann was given little chance at winning the 120-meter event. After all, he had never even won a World Cup event and had missed two events last month with injuries following a crash.
But just like he did on the small hill, sticking the final jump of competition to win, Ammann captured the large hill by leaping 436 feet (133 meters) to finish with 281.4 points.
"I've never had such a good jump before in an important competition," he said.
Hannawald, the silver medalist in the 90, had a chance to overtake Ammann on the final jump. He soared 430 feet (131 meters) but couldn't hold his landing, fell back onto his skis and into fourth.
"I'm super frustrated," Hannawald said. "I knew I had to make a really big jump and I took all the risks."
Ammann entered the final round tied for first with Hannawald, and as the event's second-to-last jumper, he needed a long, clean jump on his final run to put the pressure on.
Malysz, who jumped right before Ammann, had just taken the lead with a jump of 410 feet (128 meters), and as he sat on the starting bar, Ammann tried to envision knifing through the thin Utah air.
"I thought about what I wanted to do," he said. "I knew after the first jump that anything was possible. I realized I needed a super jump."
He got one.
And when Ammann finally touched down in front of 20,469 fans at Utah Olympic Park, he dropped to his side and skidded through the snow. Ammann then popped up on his skis with the same disbelieving look he had after his stunning win at 90 meters.
"I've never had such a jump," he said. "After takeoff, I had a wonderful feeling and I kind of knew immediately what was coming."
But before the gold was assured, Ammann had to hold his breath while Hannawald charged down the mountain.
In the air, Hannawald extended far over his ski tips. But he was a little short, and while falling backward, he dropped in the standings, too.
"Being the last one is very difficult," Ammann said. "That's probably the reason Sven fell. I feel sorry for him."
Kazuyoshi Funaki, the defending Olympic champion from Nagano, was seventh with 245.5 points.
The Americans, who won their only ski jump medal in 1924, had a disappointing day.
Alan Alborn of Anchorage, Alaska, didn't even qualify for the second round of the final and finished 34th in his last Olympics. Clint Jones of Steamboat Springs, Colo., was 42nd. The United States has failed to place a jumper in the Top 25 in the last three Olympics.
Knocked down by a stiff wind at his back, Alborn jumped just 379 feet (115.5 meters).
"It was a bad day," Alborn said. "I guess I didn't want it bad enough and I couldn't put it together. I'm disappointed."
The 17-year-old Jones said the Olympic experience should help a young American team already thinking about the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy.
"That's my goal," he said. "This kind of competition will only help us out."
Ammann is looking for some help, too.
Unlike the U.S. squad, the Swiss team doesn't have a 120-meter hill to train on, and Ammann hopes his win here can lead to the construction of one.
"If that's the effect of my success," he said, "then I will be happy."