Swiss ski jumper Simon Ammann was responsible for the greatest comeback of the Vancouver Games
Swiss ski jumper Simon Ammann was responsible for the greatest comeback of the Vancouver Games.
An athlete who had experienced more than his fair share of Olympic highs and lows, Ammann sprang a major surprise in 2002 by completing the ski jumping double, winning gold on both the normal and large hill. It was a feat only previously achieved by Finland’s Matti Nykänen, and Ammann seemed set for greatness.
Over the next five years, however, the Swiss found success largely elusive. At Turin 2006 he finished a lowly 15th on the large hill and could manage no better than joint 38th on the normal hill. Observers the world over wondered whether he had just got lucky in 2002 or been unlucky ever since.
Ammann returned for his third appearance at the Winter Games in 2010, having seen his form finally pick up. He had by this time won gold, silver and bronze medals at the world championships and had also recorded a number of victories on the World Cup circuit. Once again, he found himself among the favourites going into Vancouver, though what happened next was another major surprise.
On the normal hill Ammann soared 105m on his first jump, and his score of 135.5 points was enough to put him clear in first place. After eight years, he was back in the lead of an Olympic final and was determined not to lose his position.
The second round saw him produce a classic performance under pressure, as he pulled out a 108m jump, the longest of the competition. He punched the air as he landed, certain that he had done enough to win gold, which indeed he had, finishing a comfortable seven points clear.
A week later Ammann returned to action on the large hill. Once again he hit his marks, conjuring a first jump of 144m, a new Olympic record. In the second round, he cleared 138m, which was enough to secure a second gold. Remarkably for an athlete who had blown hot and cold over the years, he had recorded the longest jump in each round of both finals.
The first ski jumper in history to win the Olympic double twice, Ammann had become in the process Switzerland’s most decorated Olympian of all time.