Winter Sports Round-up: Ahonen furious, Manninen keeps winning; women's
relay team wins in cross-country skiing, and Palander
continues good form
Ski-jumper Janne Ahonen was anything but pleased after finishing back in eighth in the ski-flying world championships at Austria's Bad Mitterndorf over the weekend.
Norwegian Roar Ljökelsöy's celebrations for his second ski-flying world title in succession were witnessed by a somewhat dejected and angry Finn at the bottom of the hill.
"This made no sense. After all, we're talking about the ski-flying world championship. It is a somewhat important event, one where there should be no place for clowning around."
Ahonen's protests were directed against the actions of event's assistant director Miran Tepes's actions. Ahonen's fight for a medal was lost in the first jump of the second day of the individual event, when he was forced to jump in deplorable wind conditions. The wind readings told their own story: following wind 4.4 metres per second, cross wind 1.5 metres per second.
According to Finland's head coach Tommi Nikunen, the limits for head wind and following wind were commonly agreed at 1.5 metres per second before the event.
A disappointed Nikunen claimed that a medal was robbed from Ahonen and Finland. Ahonen was lying handily in 4th place after the first day's jumping.
While Norway's Roar Ljökelsöy renewed his victory from two years ago by a comfortable 25.6-point margin, the silver and bronze medals for Austria's Andreas Widhölzl and Thomas Morgenstern delighted the 50,000-strong home crowd.
Ljökelsöy's weekend was perfected by Norway's team event gold on Sunday. Finland came second 20.7 points behind Norway, followed by Germany and Austria.
Finland's women sprang a surprise on Sunday by securing victory in a FIS World Cup 4x5-kilometre cross-country skiing relay in Val di Fiemme in Italy.
The event was a 2+2 combination of classic and freestyle. Finland's skiers were Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, Virpi Kuitunen, Riitta-Liisa Lassila and Kaisa Varis. Finland beat Russia, who came in second, by 18.7 seconds. Third-placed Norway crossed the finish line over a minute behind Finland.
In the men's relay, Team Finland finished eighth, despite Teemu Kattilakoski's commendable effort. He was the fastest skier on the anchor lap.
The top three teams were Italy, Germany, and Norway.
Finland dominated the Nordic Combined events in Val di Fiemme on Saturday and Sunday. In Saturday's race, Hannu Manninen finished first 0.1 points ahead of fellow countryman Anssi Koivuranta.
Finland nearly took a triple victory, as the third Finn Jaakko Tallus came in fourth, only 1.9 points behind Austria's Christoph Bieler.
Manninen secured yet another victory on Sunday, his seventh of this season, this time in the 7.5-kilometre sprint event. Manninen will be a hard man to beat in the Olympics in a month's time.
Austrians Mario Stecher and Felix Gottwald came in second and third, while Jaakko Tallus took yet another fourth position.
Alpine skier Kalle Palander is showing definite signs of improved form as the Olympics draw nearer. On Sunday Palander finished second in the slalom in Wengen, Switzerland. This was his best race since March 2004, when he last won an individual World Cup event.
Yesterday's race confirmed that Palander's season promises to be better than 2004-2005.
Palander was beaten by 0.2 seconds by Italian Giorgio Rocca, who took his fifth consecutive slalom victory and appears on present form to be an absolute lock for Olympic gold in Torino. German Alois Vogl came in third. The overall World Cup leader Benjamin Raich of Austria, who was in the lead after the first run, astonishingly flapped once again this season and missed the third gate of the second run.