Germany's Carina Vogt leaps to gold

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Based on training sessions in the Caucasus Mountains above Sochi, the battle for the Winter Olympics' first-ever gold medal in women's ski jumping was between Sara Takanashi and Daniela Iraschko-Stolz.

Carina Vogt had other ideas.

A distant second place to Takanashi in the World Cup standings and never a winner of a World Cup event, Vogt now owns the most important medal in her sport.

"I cannot find the right words, it's amazing, I wouldn't have thought it was possible three hours ago," the German jumper said. "It's amazing. I'm the first woman Olympic champion in ski jumping."

Only in 2011 did the International Olympic Committee agreed to allow the women to compete at Sochi -- 90 years after men first jumped at the inaugural Winter Games in 1924.

What's even more amazing is that 17-year-old Takanashi didn't even make the podium -- Iraschko-Stolz took silver and Coline Mattell of France earned bronze, leaving Takansahi fourth.

The 22-year-old Vogt, a trained police officer, didn't come to Sochi with a glowing resume. She finished third with Germany in a mixed team at the world titles in Italy last year, where she was also fifth in the individual normal hill.

But her World Cup record has improved -- one sixth placing in 2011-12, a third, fourth and sixth in 2012-13 and perhaps more tellingly, a consistent four second-place finishes this season which indicated she may have been closing in on something special.

Two of those four second placings came in Japan on back-to-back weekends, losing both times to Takanashi and a very parochial home crowd. Less than a month later, she'd be beating the Japanese star where it counted most.

Vogt, who became interested in ski jumping when she became mesmerized by it on TV as a four-year-old, performed when it counted Tuesday, scoring 247.4 points on the normal hill at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center, six better than the Iraschko-Stolz.

Takanashi finished the first round in third place, meaning she would jump third-last in the final round, a place she was not used to considering she has led and won so many World Cups this year.

Iraschko-Stolz took the lead with three jumpers to go, leaving Vogt needing a good jump to overtake her. It wasn't as good as the Austrian's final jump, but enough to give the German a six-point edge.

Japan had been counting on Takanashi to end an Olympic gold medal drought. The country's last gold came at the 2006 Turin Games when Shizuka Arakawa won the ladies singles in figure skating.

"I couldn't jump the way I wanted to on both attempts." Takanashi said. "I came here wanting to do my best. I'm incredibly disappointed."

Sarah Hendrickson, the 19-year-old defending world champion from Park City, Utah, finished 21st of 30 starters, clearly still affected by right knee surgery she underwent in August. Although she showed improved form Tuesday, she plans to take the rest of the season off.

Hendrickson says she wasn't surprised to see Takanashi off the podium.

"It's a crazy world the Olympics," she said. "It shows she is a human being. I wish I could tell her she is still an amazing athlete and that she has many good years to come."

Hendrickson, because she has no ranking from being off the World Cup circuit with her injury, was the first jumper in the Olympic final.

"It's an amazing feeling to be the first one to jump in the first women's ski jumping competition at the Olympics," she said. "My performance was not the best, but I kind of expected it."

Two other Americans from Park City competed -- Jessica Jerome was 10th and former world champion Lindsey Van 15th.