Luis on Ski Jumping Hill Tournament: at the World Cup Final 2016 in Planica, Part II
After a good start and a long walk home in the first episode of this year's Planica recap by our columnist Luis Holuch, you can now find out how he experienced the team competition, which traditionally took place on Planica's saturday. And that is not all: you can already look forward to the final, third, part. So, stay tuned and enjoy reading this episode of "Luis on Ski Jumping Hill Tournament"!
Luis on Ski Jumping Hill TournamentBy Ski Jumping Hill Archive author and photographer Luis Holuch
„Now that is a bit too much fresh air“, are my first thoughts when I got awake on Saturday even before 7 a.m.. I opened the window before I went to bed, to avoid a Slovenian sauna. The Italian heating, which is running all day long, made the seven kilometers from the border to Kranjska Gora easily. But as long as this is not ending in a flu, I do not really care about it. And luckily, everything went good. The other boys were already dressed on and ready to make their way as a got up. But they did not need to wait for me, because I was responsible fort he key, so we splitted and made an appointment for later.
No matter when – as I got up, at 7 a.m. or at 7.30 a.m. – it is surprisingly calm in Kranjska Gora. No matter if we talk about the noise level or the amount of traffic. There are also not many people walking on the streets. As I crossed the main road Borovška Česta, I immediatly could take a shuttle-bus, a public shuttle bus. Also everything else is good organised and free of stress. Walking through the entry is way more easier than the day before. Although, there are a couple of hundred or up to thousands of people before the doors, some have alcohol in their hands. It is the normal Planica-Saturday madness.
I directly make my way to the press center to get the start lists. Meanwhile, I was texting with a Twitter follower of mine, I probably saw the day before. But I remembered her too late. She reacted on a tweet of mine in which I told about the long march from the hill back to the apartment. This was the (late) moment when I recognized that she, Basia, was standing in front of me and next to Michał she was talking to. And also today, it took some time till we found each other. Although we were both at the press center at the same time, we met during the trial round at the hill. Nevertheless, our conversation was very nice, also because she was „finally again“ able to practice her German.
The trial round was not very catchy and there were only eight teams participating; the number of teams which is necessary to have a world cup competition. Thanks to the US boys. Basia was kind of curious, because she already saw me in Klingenthal 2014 – she said I was easy to notice thanks to the Eurosport jacket I wore. It is not unusual for me anymore to be recognized, but I never ever have been asked so many things about my life before. Not even in job interviews. But, of course I answered each of Basia’s questions. I do not feel very comfortable when I am the person in the conversation which speaks way more than the other and it definitely was not as if I did not want to know something about her. In the end, we had a good balance referring to the number of words. During the competitions, our ways split, as she wanted to make a couple of photos. So I talked to the Polish boys.
From time to time, Maciej and Paweł talked to one oft he Polish ski jumpers – of course, I did not understand a single word. Austria took the lead after the first group, which was at least a little surprising. Jurij Tepeš, who did not have had his best Planica weekend, brought his team on the second rank. The German coach Werner Schuster decided to chose a very tactic order for his team. Stephan Leyhe was in the first group, Severin Freund started in the unused second group, Markus Eisenbichler was number three and Richard Freitag number four. By chosing this order, Schuster wanted to help Severin Freund avoiding a possible shorter inrun in the fourth group. This effected that Freitag had to jump against Kasai, Hayboeck, Forfang and Prevc – four top-class flyer. Severin Freund brought the German team in the second group on rank two by a jump on 214 meters, even ahead of the Slovenians. The lead was taken by the Norwegians – Anders Fannemel jumped outstanding 234 meters.
Markus Eisenbichler was not able to stand against the strongest third group since a long time and lost more than 30 points against Kranjec (231.5 meters) and Gangnes (233 meters). And then the fourth group came next. Michael Glasder increased his personal best to 197 meters, Jan Matura jumped his standard distance with 204 meters and Kamil Stoch showed solid 213 meters. The tension and atmosphere was rising as Noriaki Kasai started his jump. Those few people who still did not love him before Planica were finally convinced here, because he was flying like a young god and on Friday with a golden bib and the starting number 500, which was the number of world cups he has jumped until then. 225 meters and the Planica anthem was played for him. His flight was only beaten by three competitors in this group: Michael Hayboeck on top with 235 meters, Richard Freitag equalized his former personal best distance with 230 meters and Peter Prevc’ jump was half a meter shorter than Freitag’s. Johann André Forfang, for the first time in the fourth group for Norway, made his worst jump on the weekend and was also unlucky with the wind conditions – 210 meters was his distance. Nevertheless, Norway was leading after the first round by 9.3 points average ahead of Slovenia, Austria on rank three were already 20 points behind. Germany lost all of its chances on the podium.
During the break, the stadium announcers told the official number of spectators: 32,500 – even 2,500 more than on Friday! This is the highest possible capacity in Planica these years. The second round started just as the first started and even though the gate was lower, the distances were bigger. Thanks to the stronger head wind. Stefan Kraft put on the first real highlight with 241 meters and also Jurij Tepeš finally reached a distance of his standards with 234.5 meters. Daniel-André Tande defended the average of Norway solidly with his 224.5 meters. Also Stephan Leyhe was able to use the good wind conditions and jumped a new personal best of 220 meters. Best of the second group was again Anders Fannemel with 233.5 meters. Severin Freund became second and was the closest to Fannemel with 219 meters. The third group was now supposed to decide whether any other team than Norway was going to win. Manuel Fettner started nicely with 224 meters for Austria. Robert Kranjec was up next and unluckily, he made his worst jump of the weekend and jumped 208 meters. This was now perfect for Kenneth Gangnes and he took this chance by jumping 239 meters – the old hill and world record on the old Letalnica.
The winner was clear now, so the last question was: „would Slovenia only become third on their home hill?“ The duel was now Prevc versus Hayboeck, in this exact order. Because Austria was ahead of Slovenia until now. Richard Freitag jumped solid 222 meters and secured the fifth place for Germany ahead of Poland, Czech Republic and the United States. Noriaki Kasai caused head shaking or hats off all around the place as he jumped 233.5 meters. „This guy is just crazy!“, I said to Maciej and added „but still I would love to see a real highlight“. „Just wait for it. If it is not coming today, tomorrow at the grand final“, he answered shortly before the noise level was rising up high. It had to, because Peter Prevc was coming up. He was now the guy to lead Slovenia on the second place. And therefor, he really needed a big highlight. But, as usual in this season, he made it. 246 meters, or as the Slovenians say „dvestošestštirideset metrov“ while he did not have the best wind conditions. Although it was clear that the first rank was taken by Norway, the celebrations were immense. The audience was just euphoric by the quality of Prevc’ flights.
It was Michael Hayboeck’s turn now. 235 meters was the distance to beat, as it was written on the big screen. He already proved in the first round that he was able to make a flight of this quality. But the situation was way more different and difficult right now: would he be able to make this flight right now after he at least heard what Prevc has done before him? As he was in the inrun track, the wind calmed down a bit. Hayboeck passed the green line on the slope and set a telemark at 233.5 meters. “Wow, respect! He stood the pressure nicely”, I said. Mikołaj thought the same: „after this flight, the Austrians deserved the second place very well“. The screen showed the nowadays very popular yellow bar „oh, it must be very close if they show it“, I said before the results were shown. And it was close! Very close! The bar stopped on rank two, Prevc really put his team before the Austrians. By 0.1 points! „There are now words for how mean this is“, we all said and had to laugh. This just showed how unfair the wind-and-gate-compensation can be – beside all the advantages it has. But there was nobody angry about it, the jumpers at last. They were looking forward to their party in the jumpers‘ village, where also my Polish friends went to. I stopped shortly at the press center for a short chat with Basia. She was preparing some questions for an interview with Toni Innauer. Unluckily, it did not took place, as she later wrote me. But I was able to make her happy with a recording of the documentation about Gregor Schlierenzauer.
Because almost all important decisions were already clear, there was a lot of time to talk about his person. At that time, his last update was at his birthday and since then people speculated a lot about his future. After this weekend, there were news that he tore his ACL in skiing holidays. Meanwhile, he underwent a surgery and started his rehabilitation process. He once again made clear that ski jumping is still his life and he wants to come back. May this be a lucky path for him!
Another short story: the most awesome feeling at the hill since the conclusion of the new Planica Nordic Center is walking the way from the press center to the media guest area. The press center is located in the lowest floor of the multi-functional building. You have to walk though a carbon door, walk a few steps and then walk through a glass door. Up next is a section of four stairs and then anoher glass door on the right-hand side. Now you walk some steps to the left and see a long path ahead of you. A kind security guard keeps the final glass door open and makes it possible for you to walk one minute through the coldest place in the Nordic Center. You are in a tunnel which is only heated between the last two glass doors I talked about. The sun has no chance to „look“ inside, so it gets cold for a moment. But at the end of the tunnel, you can see some sunlight. Now you have to walk another fourty stairs up until you are outside again. You are now located at the end of the outrun. Right behind you, there are the VIP stands. On the left side standing areas and on the right side the two big seat stands, FIS Family area, mixed zone and a path fort he jumpers. You seriously feel like Lionel Messi as he comes out from the catacombs and walks on the pitch in the biggest football stadiums on planet earth. It is simply a great feeling!
The spectators around you think you are an important person and you notice that. I do not really think I an important person in this place. Mainly because people from the outside would not really think I am working there. My equipment is small and simple: start and result lists and my iPhone. I honestly have to say I sometimes feel like I am out of place if colleagues with photo cameras big as cannon muzzles are passing me. But it somehow belongs to these ski jumping weekends, you get used to it. And I hope you guys can somehow see that I have been working in Planica by reading this article, just as the article before and also the final, which will come up next. So, stay tuned!
Ski Jumps:Planica (Letalnica)