Ski Jumping

Ammann returns to the top of the hill

By Mattias Karen
Associated Press / February 14, 2010

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WHISTLER, British Columbia - Staring down at the ski jumping ramp and his shot at another Olympic gold medal, Simon Ammann of Switzerland flashed back eight long years to when he was last in the same position - and tried to block it all out.

He cleared his thoughts just long enough to make sure the result was the same as in 2002.

Ammann put down a majestic second jump of 108 meters yesterday to protect his lead from the first round and claim the first gold medal of the Vancouver Olympics.

Ammann also became just the second ski jumper to earn three individual Olympic golds, while making up for many of his disappointments since sweeping the normal and large hill events at the Salt Lake City Games.

“It’s unbelievable that eight years later I’m back here,’’ said Ammann, 28. “I’m back at the top of the world.’’

Ammann, who finished with 276.5 points, again bested Polish veteran Adam Malysz, who also won silver in the large hill in 2002. Gregor Schlierenzauer of Austria took bronze.

It capped a remarkable return to form after Ammann initially struggled to cope with the success he had as a 20-year-old - and the “flying Harry Potter’’ nickname he earned for his resemblance to the fictional wizard. He flopped at the 2006 Turin Games, then bounced back to win his first world championship title in 2007.

“It was far easier for me eight years ago,’’ said Ammann, who matched Finnish great Matti Nykanen’s record of three individual golds. “I was a newcomer, I was fresh . . . Today I have to carry quite a burden with all the memories of my long career.’’

Ammann raced down the ramp for the second jump at 54.25 miles per hour before soaring into the air, skis in a V-shape like backward airplane wings, shoulders squared to let his 5-foot-8-inch body ride the wind to perfection. His landing wasn’t perfect, but it hardly mattered. He knew right away he was the winner, pumping his arm in celebration before raising two clenched fists.