Wellinger, Lundby, Stoch and Norway find gold in the hills of Alpensia
Germany’s Andreas Wellinger and Norway’s Robert Johansson both excelled at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre, winning three medals – including one gold - apiece, while Poland’s Kamil Stoch retained his large hill title. Norway’s Maren Lundby outjumped the field to claim the second ever women’s individual title, as her male compatriots took the team gold.
Mastering tricky wind conditions, which caused several interruptions and changes in the start height, Germany’s Wellinger put in a huge second jump on the HS109 hill to win the men’s normal hill gold ahead of Norway’s Johann Andre Forfang and Robert Johansson, leaving defending champion Stoch to settle for fourth.
“I can’t believe it, said 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games gold medallist Wellinger after taking victory in the first ski jump event on 6 February. “My second jump was especially good. I can’t describe how it feels to come out on top.” Jumping 104.5m in the first round, the German lay fifth at the halfway stage, some way behind the leader, Stefan Hula (111.0 m) of Poland, with Stoch well placed after going out to 106.5m.
An Olympic large hill team champion with Germany at Sochi 2014, Wellinger turned the competition on its head with a superb second jump of 113.5m. That gave him a combined points total of 259.3 and a comfortable victory over Norwegian pair Forfang (250.9 points) and Johansson (249.7 points).
Lundby too good in women’s competition
Two days later it was Maren Lundby’s turn in the spotlight. She flew out to 110.0m to post a combined score of 264.6 points and win the women’s gold by a distance, ahead of Germany’s Katharina Althaus. Japan’s Sara Takanashi, the leading female ski jumper of the last six seasons, finished third to claim a long-awaited Olympic medal.
The wind and snow were growing in intensity when Takanashi, Althaus and Lundby brought the competition to an exciting end. The Japanese was the first of the three to go and took the lead with a leap of 103.5m. It did not last long, with Althaus going out to 106.0m, prompting a sporting round of applause from Takanashi.
Resisting the pressure on her shoulders, Lundby went four metres further to claim the gold. “I was so calm at the top of the hill,” said the 23-year-old, who bounced back in style from a fall the previous day. “I felt ready and it was really fantastic to fly out to the green line and claim the win.”
Takanashi – happy to finish on the podium after her disappointment at Sochi 2014, when she went into the competition as favourite but could only finish fourth – said her experience at PyeongChang 2018 would bolster her attempts to win gold at Beijing 2022.
Stoch retains large hill title
Poland’s Kamil Stoch successfully defended his large hill crown on 17 February, beating off the challenges of Wellinger and Johansson, who each collected their second medals of PyeongChang 2018 behind him.
“I think I’m still dreaming,” said Stoch after becoming the first man to retain the title since Finland’s Matti Nykänen in 1988 and only the third in history, after Norway’s Birger Rudd in 1936. It was the 30-year-old Stoch’s third gold following his large hill/normal hill double at Sochi 2014.
In a thrilling climax, the Pole landed a 136.5m jump to total 285.7 points and beat Wellinger, who went out to 142m with his second leap, by 3.4 points, with Johansson third on 275.3 pts. Just behind Johansson came two more Norwegians in the shape of Daniel Andre Tande and Forfang.
A large hill world champion in 2013, Stoch had warmed up for PyeongChang 2018 by becoming only the second man in history to win all four rounds of the Four Hills Tournament, though his hopes of being the first ski jumper to retain both individual Olympic titles ended when he placed fourth in the normal hill.
“I don’t have enough time to express how grateful I am to my wife for her support,” said Stoch after securing the third Olympic gold of his career. “My wife is the greatest gift I have ever had. My dream will go on forever I think. It’s a wonderful dream and I don’t ever want to wake up.”
Norway win their first team gold
Having already pocketed two individual bronzes at PyeongChang 2018, Norway’s Johansson had his sights set on gold as he prepared to jump last in the large hill team event on 19 February. He duly secured it with a leap of 136m, giving Norway their first ever win in a competition that made its Olympic debut at Calgary 1988.
The Norwegian quartet of Tande, Andreas Stjernen, Forfang and Johansson racked up 1098.5 points to depose defending champions Germany (Karl Geiger, Stephan Leyhe, Richard Freitag and Wellinger), who totalled 1,075.7 points. The Polish team of Maciej Kot, Hula, Dawid Kubacki and Stoch took the bronze with 1072.45 points.
The Norwegians led by two points from Germany heading into the final round of jumps and by five from the Poles, with the rest of the field some way behind. The first of Norway’s jumpers, Tande extended the gap with a huge leap of 140m, which earned him 145.5 points and put the pressure on the Germans and Poles to come up with something truly special if they were going to take the gold.
Stjernen then went out to 135.5m to extend his team’s advantage, and though Freitag briefly brought Germany back into contention by scoring 135.8 points, their hopes of defending the title all but ended when Forfang jumped 132m. Wellinger then made sure of silver for the Germans, while Stoch was below his best on his final jump.
That left the stage clear for the 27-year-old Johansson to a gold to his rapidly growing medal collection. “I could see from the top of the hill that we had a 22-point lead over Germany before the final jump, which settled my nerves, though you do get more and more nervous as your jump time approaches,” admitted Johansson.
“I just tried to stay calm by telling myself I was strong enough to do what had to be done. The nerves then gave way to the most wonderful feeling afterwards. I didn’t expect to achieve these results at my first Games.”