Austrian veteran Daniela Iraschko-Stolz underlined that she will be a serious contender for a first ever Olympic medal in women's ski jumping, when she outshone her younger rivals during Saturday’s practice session at the RusSki Gorki ski jumping centre.
The 30-year-old dominated the women's first outing on an Olympic ski jumping hill on Saturday, winning two of the three jumps, ahead of Japanese teenage star and overwhelming favourite Sara Takanashi and the USA’s Sarah Hendrickson, who are respectively 13 and 11 years her junior.
The Austrian made light of her relative advancing years in the practice session on Saturday, when she was the only woman to jump 100 metres.
“Weeds don't die away quickly,” joked the 2011 world champion, who served a reminder of her talents when she scored two World Cup wins ahead of frontrunner Takanashi in January, and she is clearly revelling in the chance to make her mark at her Olympic Winter Games.
“I had stopped dreaming of the Olympics… I'm not the youngest so it's pretty huge,” she explains.
“It makes me really proud. And then to be a top contender for a medal, it's like a fairy-tale, I'm 14 years younger again!”
A destiny fulfilled
From a young age, Iraschko-Stolz felt that competing on the Olympic stage was part of her destiny.
“After finishing school, I was asked what I wanted to do in life and I said I'm going to Stams (a specialised Austrian high school for skiers) and then to the Olympics. It was always my goal.”
The Austrian says she has been hugely impressed by the Olympic Village in Sochi. “It's really special, it's a huge sports family and to experience this is really impressive. I'm here for the first time, and I just want to see everything, I'm just sightseeing!”
While relishing the whole Olympic experience, she remains intensely focused on winning a medal, and will have her game face on when the women’s competition starts on 11 February.
“If I can stay relaxed, I can definitely be among the top jumpers. That's what it'll be about on Tuesday,” she pledged.
Style and distance
The jumpers will have a third and final training session on Monday. Then the following evening at 17h30 local time, under the floodlights of the RusSki Gorki ski jumping centre, the first round will take place on the HS105.normal hill, with the top 30 competitors progressing to the final round just over an hour later, under the floodlights of the RusSki Gorki ski jumping centre.
The winner will be determined by points awarded, not purely based on the length of her jump, but a combination of distance and style.
The competitors start with 60 points and receive two points for every meter jumped beyond 95 meters and two deducted for every meter under 95, to determine the distance score.
A panel of five judges then determine the style score, with the highest and lowest scores discarded, and the other three scores added together to determine the total, which is then combined with the distance score.