Olympics: Ski jumper Kobayashi soars to Japan's 1st Beijing gold

Japan's Ryoyu Kobayashi (C) celebrates after winning the men's normal hill individual ski jumping at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Feb. 6, 2022, at the National Ski Jumping Centre in Zhangjiakou, China. (Kyodo)
Ryoyu Kobayashi of Japan soars through the air in the final round of the men's normal hill individual ski jumping at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Feb. 6, 2022, at the National Ski Jumping Centre in Zhangjiakou, China. (Kyodo)

Ryoyu Kobayashi won the men’s ski jumping normal hill competition Sunday to earn Japan’s first gold medal of the Beijing Olympics.

The 25-year-old took the lead with a 104.5-meter jump, the longest of the first round, worth 145.4 points and gave himself a 6.2 gap to his nearest competitor. He then sealed the Olympic title in the evening’s final jump, flying 99.5 meters and raising his point total to 275.0.

Austria’s Manuel Fettner was second with 270.8, while Poland’s Dawid Kubacki was third on 265.9. Kobayashi’s older brother Junshiro qualified for the final round and finished 27th at Zhangjiakou National Ski Jumping Centre.

“I’ve managed good jumps in the individual normal hill so I want to build on that for the next event,” the gold medalist said.

Asked in a press conference whether he was sure he could perform so well in his first event of the games, he said “I was just thinking of delivering a good jump. I’ve practiced a lot, so I think I was very confident.”

The medal was Japan’s first on the normal hill since Kazuyoshi Funaki captured the silver in Nagano, Japan, in 1998, and the first gold since Yukio Kasaya led a host-nation podium sweep in Sapporo 50 years ago.

Junshiro, who ran to embrace his brother after he secured the gold, said, “He has made history in the ski jumping world.”

“But as his older brother, I can’t allow the mistakes he made in the second jump. I thought he could have won by a wider margin,” he said with a laugh.

Kobayashi, whose specialty is the large hill, now goes for Japan’s first gold in that event since Funaki in 1998 and the first large hill medal since Noriaki Kasai seized silver in 2014.

The next ski jumping event is Monday’s mixed team competition. The men’s large hill final is set for Saturday with the men’s team event final two days later.

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