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There were few hints at what would happen in Lillehammer, when the sport was included in the full Olympic programme for the first time. Schönbächler was not considered a front-runner. At the age of 27, he had come out of retirement to compete but almost all of the favourites came from Canada or USA.
And, as it happened, the North American giants did take six of the top seven places. Yet it was that seventh skier who earned a great deal of attention, for he would fill the one place that mattered most.
The original field included 24 skiers, but only half advanced through qualifying. Schönbächler was 10th of the 12 qualifiers, with the field led by Belarussian Aleksey Parfenkov. However, while he was destined to finish the final in last place, Schönbächler headed in the other direction.
He later said that his performance included the best two jumps of his whole career. His first, three flips with three twists, scored 113.19pts, a total that was more than 1.7pts better than his nearest rival.