Morgernstern wins battle of Austrians on way to ski jump treble
He was only 19 years old, but Thomas Morgenstern had been attracting the attention of ski jumping fans for three years, bursting on to the international scene as a 16-year-old and gradually improving his performances.
He had won two team gold medals at the world championships the previous year, and was already a multiple gold medal winner in the junior world championships. He had Olympic blood in his veins, thanks to his uncle Alois, who represented Austria in Alpine skiing in the 1976 Games. Alois had placed seventh; Thomas had his eyes on even greater prizes.
Few doubted his potential – the question was whether he was old enough to fulfil it in Turin. He was certainly not the favourite coming into the Olympic Games, with most people looking toward either the Finn Janne Ahonen or the Czech jumper Jakub Janda to win the individual large hill. In the event, neither came near to a medal, finishing ninth and tenth.
Instead, it was an Austrian battle. Andreas Kofler, himself just 21 years old, produced the biggest jump of the first round, with Morgenstern second. In the next round, the places were reversed as Morgenstern went longest.
Over the two jumps, Kofler had actually gone marginally further. But it was the younger man who produced a more stylish performance and took the extra points that secured his gold.
After that success, there was plenty of expectation that Morgenstern and Kofler would inspire Austria to team success. They were the reigning world champions anyway, although the Finns also had considerable hopes of success.
Kofler set them on their way with a fine leap, giving his team a lead they were not to relinquish. But it was Morgenstern who delivered the final, decisive performance, soaring more than 140m in the final jump of the competition. The Finns did take silver while Norway, traditionally such a strong jumping nation, finished a distant third.
Morgenstern took his third Olympic gold in Vancouver, as Austria defended the large hill team title.