Monday, February 18, 2002
Germany's jumping edge smallest in Olympic history
PARK CITY, Utah -- Martin Schmitt jumped as far as he could,
and while waiting to see if it was far enough, one thought raced
through the German's mind.
Overnight sensation Simon Ammann did his part for the Swiss team, but failed to win his third medal of these Games.
"Please, please, please, please," he said. "Let me win."
He won -- by about the length of the gold-medal ribbon that will
be draped around his neck.
Schmitt soared 405 feet (123.5 meters) on his final,
nerve-racking jump to give Germany a gold medal by one-tenth of a
point over Finland Monday in team ski jumping.
The Germans, who won the silver medal four years ago in Nagano,
finished with 974.1 points, edging Finland (974.0) in the closest
team jumping competition in Olympic history.
"We barely made it," Schmitt said. "I can't imagine how the
If Schmitt's final jump had been roughly 18 inches shorter, or
if his style points had been a half-point any lower, Finland would
have won the gold.
"We're happy with silver," said Finland's Janne Ahonen. "But
how it happened is not so nice."
Slovenia, appearing in its third Olympics as an independent
nation, had 946.3 points and won the bronze for its first medal of
the Salt Lake City Games.
Austria was fourth at 926.8 and Japan, the defending Olympic
champion, was fifth at 926.0.
The young American team, hoping to use its experience in Salt
Lake City as a springboard toward a medal in 2006, finished 11th.
The U.S. hasn't won a ski jumping medal since 1924.
"Overall, the guys ripped their jumps," said Alan Alborn of
Anchorage, Alaska. "This was a big competition, and not one of us
wanted to let the other down. There was a lot of pressure."
Schmitt, the second-to-last jumper in the field, said he was
feeling the pressure after Ahonen had given Finland the lead by
jumping 412 feet (125.5 meters) just ahead of him.
Schmitt decided to break out new skis for the team event, a
decision he said was "risky." And as he prepared to roar down the
in-run, Schmitt knew he had to take another chance.
"I wanted to jump over 130 (meters)," he said. "I was quick
at takeoff but there was a little dust and I didn't get to go as
far as I wanted to."
After landing and sliding to a stop, Schmitt froze.
He squatted down on his skis and braced himself to see the
distance. Schmitt first covered his eyes and then put his gloves
near his mouth, cowering at the thought of possibly letting his
teammates and country down.
Time stood still. Nearly 30 seconds passed.
But then the scoreboard showed his marks: 55 style points and a
Germany had an Olympic team gold to go with the one it won in
Schmitt's teammates, Sven Hannawald, Stephan Hocke and Michael
Uhrmann, then mobbed him and the foursome rolled around in the snow
Hannawald, who later said he was nursing a shin injury, ran over
to the stands and grabbed some small German flags as a contingent
of fans broke into chants of "Ger-man-y."
Schmitt and Hannawald were members of the German team which was
beaten by the Japanese at Nagano in 1998 by 36.4 points -- a huge
margin compared to this win.
Hannawald had come to the Games favored to win individual golds
on the 90- and 120-meter hills. Instead, he won silver at 90,
finished fourth on the large hill and needed his teammates to help
him get a gold.
Finland's Risto Jussilainen said he could barely watch during
the torturous moments before Schmitt's marks were announced.
"It's terrible," he said. "It was very near. The scoreboard
was empty. So close. It's terrible."
Ten years ago at Albertville, Finland beat Austria by 1.5 points
in the previous closest Olympic team competition.
Because judges are used during ski jumping competition, the
testy issue of subjectivity comes into play when style points are
awarded. Marks are given for the quality of a skiers' flight and
Ahonen was asked if the Finns might follow the Canadian figure
skaters and appeal their second-place finish.
"Of course not," he said. "Germany was a little better than
Finland today. That's all."
Swiss jumping sensation Simon Ammann came up short in his bid to
become the second jumper in history to win three golds. Ammann, who
won the 90- and 120-meter events, thrilled a crowd of 20,000 by
soaring 427 feet (130 meters) on his final jump but he and his
teammates finished seventh.
"I felt no pressure," said Ammann, who mugged for cameras and
played to the crowd after his leaps. "I was in a good mood. It was