Kasaya sends host nation wild
Japan's record at the Winter Games was surprisingly poor prior to its first stint as host nation. The country’s overall medal tally stood at just one: a silver in Alpine skiing, which had come almost 20 years earlier. Yet in Sapporo, in front of the home fans, there was both hope and expectation that a Japanese winter athlete could reach the top step of the podium for the first time.
Initial hopes focused on the speed skating events, but after that failed to transpire, the expectations shifted to ski jumper Yukio Kasaya.
Kasaya was by no means a long-shot. He had won various events in Europe and notched up a number of major podium finishes, including at the world championships. The key question was: would the hopes of his home nation would inspire or overwhelm him?
The first round of the normal hill in Sapporo was beyond the wildest dreams of even the most optimistic Japanese fan. All of the top four positions were occupied by Japanese jumpers, with Kasaya leading the way. He had soared 84m, but Seiki Aochi was only just behind him, followed by Akitsugu Konno and Takashi Fujisawa.
The wildly excited home crowd now awaited the second round with baited breath, as the prospect of a spectacular Japanese clean sweep of the podium seemed a real possibility.
They were not disappointed. Kasaya maintained his poise to post the longest jump again and seal a clear victory. Konno moved up to silver, with Aochi taking bronze. Japan had secured the first ski jumping clean sweep since 1948, and the three athletes were instantly promoted to the ranks of national heroes.