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Ammann jumps for joy

Ammann (centre) celebrates his victory with Germany's Hannawald (left) and Poland's Malysz Keystone

Switzerland's first gold medallist at the 2002 Winter Olympics, Simon Ammann, has spoken of his joy at winning the final of the normal hill event.

“For me, a medal was a dream. It’s unbelievable. I have won it, I have done it,” said the 20-year-old ski jumper from St Gallen.

Walter Steiner, the former Swiss ski jumper who won silver at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, summed up the nation’s delight with Ammann’s world-class performance.

“What Simon has done is absolutely fantastic, because despite the pressure he was under he performed magnificently,” Steiner told the Swiss newspaper, “Blick”, from his home in Sweden.

“He just let his body do the work and everything went smoothly. Only great champions can do that: and now Simon is one of them,” he added.

Competing at the highest World Cup jumping arena in the world, Ammann outsoared all his rivals to win Sunday’s final with a combined tally of 269 points.

Silver went to Germany’s Sven Hannawald, while Poland’s Adam Malysz came in third to take bronze.

Surprise victory

Ammann’s gold medal is the first ever by a Swiss athlete in Olympic ski jumping history and one which was wholly unexpected, despite recent impressive performances by the young athlete.

At the Four Hills, Ammann recorded the best ever results by a Swiss jumper, leaping to sixth place overall in the German-Austrian event.

Just one week after finishing the Four Hills, though, Ammann suffered a nasty crash in training which could have ended his career, let alone his Olympic aspirations.

But luckily for him, and Switzerland, Ammann was able to shrug off the concussion, whiplash and facial injuries sustained in that fall.

“I was not so surprised that I jumped well,” insisted Ammann after completing his remarkable comeback on the world’s biggest sporting stage, “but I never thought I would win. The break from jumping was not that bad for me because it gave me time to recharge my batteries.”

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR