Matti Hautamäki (7th) is best-placed Finn at Four Hills Tournament
Announcer laughs in disbelief at Hautamäki's disastrous second jump in Bischofshofen
The Finnish ski-jumping team taking part in the Four Hills Tournament enjoyed the company of a fairly competent chauffeur during Thursday’s concluding event in Bischofshofen, as none other than Formula One driver Heikki Kovalainen drove the men to the hill. For the Finns, that was more or less the highlight of an otherwise fairly hapless day in a tournament where only one of the squad managed a half-decent performance.
That one, Matti Hautamäki, Finland’s brightest star in the tournament, also had a nightmarish day in Bischofshofen, and finished no higher than 22nd, dropping him from a possible podium place to seventh spot for the event as a whole.
Hautamäki’s first jump promised better things: it was a decent 132-metre effort.
“A perfect classic. Super telemark landing”, the announcer praised Hautamäki’s jump, which saw him grab third place in the tournament’s overall standings after the first round of Thursday's competition.
The Finn’s second effort, however, was anything but a success, carrying him no further than 116.5 metres from the take-off-board.
Even the announcer began to laugh nervously in disbelief. The jump was the second weakest of the round, and Adam Malysz, Tom Hilde, Martin Koch, and Manuel Fettner all pulled ahead of Hautamäki in the overall standings.
“I don’t really know what happened with that jump. At first if felt OK, but after flying for a couple of dozen metres I realised that it was going to be a brief trip”, Hautamäki described.
“In fact, it was amazingly short.”
Even Hautamäki himself gave a laugh for the TV-cameras.
“I just shook my head in disbelief.”
Taking seventh position in the Four Hills Tournament overall standings is not an altogether bad achievement, nevertheless, and to be quite honest, we should be grateful for getting someone in the top ten, considering that Finnish jumpers seem to be way off the pace in the sport at present.
“Everything always depends on the last jump, so this did not leave me with a great aftertaste. I will sleep on it and then we will analyse what went wrong.”
As for the rest of the Finnish squad, Anssi Koivuranta and Olli Muotka failed to qualify for the second round in Bischofshofen. Veteran Janne Ahonen was the best of the bunch, finishing in 20th.
Ahonen, who has won the Four Hills Tournament a record-breaking five times, was not surprisingly disappointed with his lacklustre 24th place overall.
“In short, my problem is Janne Ahonen”, the veteran summarised.
In the final standings Koivuranta finished 23rd, seven points ahead of Ahonen.
“I enjoyed every jump here”, the Four Hills Tournament rookie declared.
One other team-member, 20-year-old Ville Larinto, quite definitely did not enjoy his jump at Garmisch-Partenkirchenin on New Year's Day, as he fell when making a prodigiously long 140-metre leap and ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.
The injured knee, which has already been operated on, will put him out for the remainder of the season, which is a great shame, as the youngster won his first FIS World Cup event in December and had been showing considerable promise.
Thomas Morgenstern of Austria was the runaway winner of this year's Four Hills Tournament.
He finished runner-up to Tom Hilde of Norway in Bischofshofen, but two earlier victories had given him a comfortable cushion, and his overall margin of victory was more than 30 points.
Simon Ammann of Switzerland finished 2nd, and Hilde's good last-day showing pulled him up into 3rd place.
Aside from the Olympics and the World Championships, the Four Hills is probably the most prestigious event on the ski-jumping calendar.
This was Morgenstern's first win, but he is no stranger to success, with an individual gold mendal and two team golds from Torino and Vancouver, and four team gold medals from the World Championships in 2005, 2007, and 2009.
He also won the FIS World Cup in 2008.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Veteran ski-jumper Ahonen finishes second in Four Hills Tournament (7.1.2010)
Ahonen takes Four Hills Tournament title for historic fifth time (7.1.2008)
Four Hills Tournament (Wikipedia)
FIS-Ski: Bischofshofen results