Stoch heading to PyeongChang 2018 on an upward curve
A double Olympic ski jumping champion at Sochi 2014, Kamil Stoch began 2017 with a bang, winning the Four Hills tournament for the first time and then helping his country secure a maiden world championship team title. If he maintains this kind of form at PyeongChang 2018, the flying Pole will be hard to stop.
After suffering a dip in fortunes following his superb Sochi double, Stoch got back to his winning ways in the best possible fashion in January 2017, winning the Four Hills tournament for the first time in his career. The Pole began the prestigious annual competition with second places in Oberstdorf (GER) and Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER), behind Austria’s Stefan Kraft and Norway’s Daniel-Andre Tande respectively.
A fourth place followed in Innsbruck (AUT), where Tande won again. But when his closest rivals struggled at Bischofshofen (AUT), Stoch took full advantage to win the event and top the tournament standings ahead of compatriot Piort Zyla and Tande. Later that month, he scored another win in Zakopane (POL), going out to 131m with his second jump to send the 45,000 crowd wild and have them chanting his name. It was his fifth win on his home hill.
Then, at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Lahti (FIN), an in-form Stoch helped his country land its first ever team large hill title, as a Polish quartet featuring Dawid Kubacki, Maciej Kot and Zyla topped the podium ahead of Austria and Germany. In the World Cup, meanwhile, Stoch enjoyed a close battle with Kraft, winning once in Lillehammer (NOR), twice on home snow in Wisla (POL), and again in Sapporo (JAP) and Vikersund (NOR) to finish just behind the Austrian in second.
The World Cup season featured the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic test event on the HS140 hill in Alpensia. Despite finishing third in the event behind Kraft and Germany’s Andreas Wellinger, Stoch expressed his delight with the venue where he will defend his Olympic large hill title.
“It was great to jump this hill today,” he said. “I liked it and I’m very happy with what I achieved. The whole Olympic complex here is really good. It’s very modern and futuristic and I like it. I’ve got a lot of competitions under my belt now and I’m totally focused on my work and nothing else. I just want to get as much enjoyment as I can from ski jumping.”
He rounded his season off in fine style in Planica (SLO) in late March, jumping fully 251.5m to set a new Polish ski flying record and a new hill record.
Home from home
Stoch was born in Zakopane and enjoys a special bond with the town’s legendary hill. It was there that he made his FIS World Cup debut at the age of 16, on 17 January 2004, and it was there that he recorded his first victory on 23 January 2011. Further “home” wins would come his way in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017.In the Olympic arena, meanwhile, the Pole failed to make much of an impression on his first two appearances, at Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010.
Stoch began to make his presence felt in the FIS World Cup in 2011, and two years later he secured his first world title with jumps of 131.5m and 130m on the large hill in Val di Fiemme (ITA).
“My life isn’t going to change,” said the self-effacing Pole afterwards. “I’ve finally reached a goal and achieved one of my dreams. It’s great to have done that.”
The big time
When Stoch travelled to Sochi for his third Olympics the following year, he did so as the leader in the World Cup, a competition he would go on to win for the first time. The Pole backed up that form by jumping 105.5m with his opening attempt in the normal hill competition, which earned him 142 points and a healthy halfway lead over Norway’s Anders Bardal and Slovenia’s Peter Prevc. A second jump of 103.5m gave him his first Olympic gold, ahead of Prevc in silver and Bardal in bronze.
Six days later, Stoch became the third man in history – after Finland’s Matti Nykänen in 1988 and Switzerland’s Simon Amman in 2002 and 2010 – to complete the Olympic normal hill/large hill double.
“It’s amazing,” said the Pole after edging out Japanese veteran Noriaki Kasai by 1.3 points and writing his name into the history books. “It’s like a dream come true. I can’t believe it.
“I made such a big mistake in the second round, I don’t know how I jumped so far. I was too aggressive. That’s why I flew so far. But hey, what the heck? That’s why I won.”
Following an outstanding 2017, the Pole has every chance of retaining his two titles in the Republic of Korea and of adding another gold to his collection in the team event with Poland.