Ammann emerges from the shadows
Every now and then an athlete so inspired by competing on the Olympic stage that they produce something truly remarkable, something that nobody thought them capable of.
Ski jumper Simon Ammann, a 20-year-old from the Swiss town of Grabs, arrived in Salt Lake City with very little fanfare. He had finished 35th at the 1998 Winter Games and had never come anywhere near to winning a World Cup event. Just before the Games, he suffered concussion after a fall and, it is fair to say that nobody expected him to challenge for a medal of any colour.
And yet Ammann rose to the occasion like nobody else at Salt Lake City. His first event was the normal hill, with the German Sven Hannawald expected to shine after dominating the previous season and winning a clean sweep at the prestigious Four Hills competition.
Hannawald soared 97m, a distance that was then bettered by Poland's Adam Lamysz. The judges, though, gave Hannawald the advantage with a strong style score which gave him a total of 131 points. However, ahead of them both was the surprise figure of Ammann, with 133.5 points. Could he really hold on to win?
The second jump saw Hannawald reach 99m, a metre further than Lamysz, and he then received the highest score so far from the judges. To retain his lead, Ammann would have to produce the jump of his life at the toughest possible moment.
Remarkably, that is exactly what he did. It was fractionally shorter than Hannawald's, but the landing was so good that his style mark matched the German's, giving Switzerland its first ski jumping gold medal by the margin of 1.5 points.
Three days later, the same three athletes were again pitched against each other on the big hill. This time, Ammann and Hannawald were tied for first after the opening jump, with Lamysz in third.
Ammann jumped second last, producing the biggest leap of the competition and a respectable style score. Hannawald then followed, jumping 131m, but landing poorly. He dropped to fourth place, while Lamysz finished second – and the previously unsung Ammann took his second gold of the Games.
Ammann did not win another event for five years and his reputation ebbed once more. Astonishingly, though, in 2010 in Vancouver, he repeated the Olympic double to take his gold tally to four.