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Ski jumper Ammann flies into Olympic history



Make it a double double: Four gold medals for Simon Ammann

Make it a double double: Four gold medals for Simon Ammann

(Keystone)

Swiss Olympian Simon Ammann has launched himself into history by becoming the only person to win four Winter Games ski jumping titles.

Ammann won the large hill competition on Saturday ahead of Poland's Adam Malysz who took silver. Austrian Gregor Schlierenzauer placed third — the exact same finish as in the normal hill jump a week earlier.

The Swiss threw his arms into the air and shook his head as if in disbelief. He lingered in the finish area as the crowd roared with cheers.

"Everything just worked so well," Ammann told Swiss television after his win. "It's unbelievable."

The Swiss has solidified his role as the most successful winter Olympics athlete of all time for Switzerland, having surpassed alpine skier Verena "Vreni" Schneider. (Schneider has three gold medals, a silver and a bronze to Ammann's four gold). In the realm of ski jumping, only Finnish great Matti Nykänen is more decorated with four golds and one silver.

In 2002 Ammann won both the normal and large hill events in Salt Lake City, becoming only the second person ever to do so. Having won both events again in Vancouver, Ammann now stands alone.

Things seemed good from the get-go for the Swiss, who comes from a village near St Gallen.

During the first round earlier in the day, Ammann jumped last in a field of 51 pilots and posted a massive 144-metre-long jump. That was a full seven metres longer than Malysz and almost 20m longer than Schlierenzauer. Ammann seemed to land so low in the transition zone that the compression forced him into a squat.

Finland's Matti Hautamaeki came in third after the first round with a jump of 134 metres and 131.7 points, well behind Ammann's 144.7 points.

Binding matter

For the final round, Ammann once again scored the highest with a jump longer than both of his rivals. He flew virtually horizontally for 138 metres in a compact and stable stance. Final score: 283.6 points, 14.2 points more than Malysz and 21.4 points more than Schlierenzauer

The Austrians questioned Ammann's gear earlier this week, saying modifications to his bindings allow him to jump more aggressively and have given him an advantage. They asked skiing's governing body, the FIS, to investigate whether the Swiss was using legal equipment.

Ammann bristled at the thought that he'd somehow cheated. "I am an Olympic champion because I am the best jumper, not because I have this equipment," he said.

It's a moot point. The FIS cleared Ammann's bindings a day later, saying nothing in the rule books forbids it. Typical bindings have a strap at the heel. The Swiss team are using metal rods to provide a more rigid, but potentially more dangerous, fit. The modifications "for the moment" are legal, an FIS spokesman told Swiss television.

"We didn't expect anything else," said Ammann. "We knew it was within the regulations. The system has been used within the last two years and other guys have used it from Austria as well."

The Swiss have now hauled in five of the ten to 12 medals they are hoping for, including four gold and one bronze. That leaves them in eighth place in the medal count. The United States currently has the most medals with 21.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

Scoring

Ski jumpers are judged on more than just their distance. Style also counts. Were the in-run, flight and landing stable with the jumper steady and poised? Athletes can also receive more points for flying farther than a line called the K point. On the Olympic normal hill, the K point is 95m from the take off. On the large hill, it's 125m. Points are added for each metre a jumper lands past the line and deducted for each metre a jumper lands short of it.

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