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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 21, 2010

Double-bliss Swiss: Ammann finishes sweep of jumping gold

 •  Ohno gets historic 7th


By ARNIE STAPLETON
Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Switzerland's Simon Ammann uses his innovative binding system as he makes a trial jump during the men's large hill competition.

ELAINE THOMPSON | Associated Press

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WHISTLER, British Columbia Swiss ski jumper Simon Ammann is no longer the boy wonder who looked so much like Harry Potter in Salt Lake City.

He's still a wizard on the jump hill, though and the first ski jumper to win four individual Olympic titles.

Strapping on his disputed bindings again, Ammann flew past his main rivals yesterday for his second gold medal of these games, putting down the best jump in both rounds in the large hill event and staving off four Austrians who weren't happy about his equipment.

Polish veteran Adam Malysz won the silver, and Austrian 20-year-old Gregor Schlierenzauer took the bronze the exact same finish as in the normal hill jump a week earlier.

Now 28 and no longer looking as if he's about to ride off on a broom Ammann bounced back from a disappointing Turin Games to repeat the sweep he posted in Salt Lake City in 2002 and surpass Finnish great Matti Nykanen's record of three individual golds.

"Maybe it is just because of the magic here in North America," Ammann said. "The other places haven't been that powerful to me."

The Austrians argue the sorcery is in Ammann's bindings, which they say unfairly helps him improve his aerodynamics. The International Ski Federation on Friday dismissed Austrian complaints, however, that the Swiss sensation's bindings violated regulations and gave him an unfair edge.

"I must say that I'm rather surprised that it's taken so long for this binding to be discovered and that there's so much noise about it," said Ammann, who tested the bindings last summer and broke them out for the last World Cup event before the Winter Games.

"It has helped me," Ammann acknowledged, "and it's a twofold advantage, both physical and mental."

Normal bindings use an elastic strap at the back to keep the boot in place. In the Swiss version, the boot is attached to a curved iron stick that bends forward as the jumper leans his body almost parallel to his skis.

Expect to see them become commonplace soon, several jumpers suggested.

"Now we have to improve our material," Schlierenzauer said. "But all I can say is Simon is in quite good shape. I can't say anything about his binding, how many meters the binding is bringing. For me, I think I have to fight for my chance and after the season I have to improve my material."

Malysz suggested the Austrians were either jealous or playing psychological games with the World Cup leader. He said he had no problem with Ammann's equipment, and that the Swiss beat him fairly.

"Two silver medals for me is nearly as good as a gold medal," Malysz said. "And my jumping is sensational, absolutely fantastic. But I just know that Simon is so much better."

Malysz, the first Pole to win four medals at the Winter Games, wouldn't say whether he, too, will test the innovative bindings.

"Maybe that's a question for the Austrians. What I wanted to do was concentrate on my job and that's why I think I do so well here in Vancouver," Malysz said. "I think he has something going with his bindings, but at the time of the competition, one should concentrate on the competition and not on these details."

Ammann held a commanding lead after the first round yesterday with a jaw-dropping 144-meter effort 7 meters farther than Malysz. Focused on a good landing on his second jump, he soared 138 meters and nailed his landing for a total score of 283.6 points.

Malysz had 269.4 points and Schlierenzauer 262.2.

"What can I say? I was so nervous up there," Ammann said. "This is all very nerve-racking. I always have this magical force to jump far here, and that is amazing. This is truly amazing."

LUGER'S DEATH

OLYMPIAN BURIED; IOC PROMISES ACTION

Thousands of mourners flocked to the yard of Nodar Kumaritashvili's family for a traditional funeral in Bakuriani, Georgia.

Inside the two-story brick home, the body of the 21-year-old luger lay in a coffin, surrounded by Orthodox Christian icons and burning candles. A choir sang chants and a portrait of the Olympian hung on the wall. His father, David Kumaritashvili, stared at the picture.

"I wanted to throw a wedding feast for you," he said. "Instead, we have a funeral."

The 21-year-old luger died in a crash hours before the opening ceremony. He is to be buried in the cemetery of a tiny church in the snowy Alpine village.

IOC president Jacques Rogge promised to do "everything in my power" to prevent a repeat of the crash.

Rogge said in an interview with The Associated Press that the IOC would work with the luge federation to "take all the steps that might be needed."

SHORT TRACK

Zhou Yang of China easily won the gold medal and set an Olympic record in women's 1,500-meter short track speedskating. Zhou breezed to the finish line in 2 minutes, 19.993 seconds, well ahead of Lee Eun-byul of South Korea, who earned the silver in 2:17.849. Park Seung-hi of South Korea took the bronze, finishing in 2:17.927. American Katherine Reutter finished fourth.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

Marcus Hellner of Sweden won the men's 30-kilometer pursuit, pulling away from three rivals after entering the ski stadium and building enough of a lead to sprint alone to the finish. He was timed in 1 hour, 15 minutes, 11.4 seconds. Germany's Tobias Angerer finished 2.1 seconds behind for the silver medal. Sweden's Johan Olsson took the bronze, 2.8 back.

BOBSLED

Germany's Andre Lange was the leader at the halfway point of the two-man bobsled event. Lange completed his two runs down the menacing Whistler Sliding Center track in 1 minute, 43.31 seconds. The three-time gold medalist and longtime brakeman Kevin Kuske led by 0.11 seconds over countrymen Thomas Florschuetz and Richard Adjei. Russia-1, driven by Alexander Zubkov, was third in 1:43.81 entering today's last two heats. American Steve Holcomb was in fourth place, just 0.12 from medal contention. There were four crashes on the first day of bobsled competition, including one involving Canada's top sled.

CURLING

Both American teams are on winning streaks after rough starts. The women have won two straight matches after opening 0-3. Debbie McCormick's U.S. team beat Britain 6-5 in an extra 11th end. The men also won in an extra end, beating Sweden 8-7. A loss would all but have eliminated the Americans from medal contention.

FREESTYLE

The finals for women's freestyle aerials will be missing defending champion Evelyn Leu of Switzerland. Leu fell on her second of two jumps in the qualifying round and did not make the final 12. Alla Tsuper of Belarus won the qualifying, followed by China's Li Nina, the 2006 silver medalist. No American had advanced past qualifying since 1998. This time, three made it to the Wednesday's final: Emily Cook, Lacy Schnoor and 16-year-old Ashley Caldwell.

MEN'S HOCKEY

Romano Lemm scored 2:28 into overtime to lift Switzerland to a 5-4 victory over Norway. Tore Vikingstad's third goal of the game had sent Norway into overtime. Norway and Switzerland will have to win their next games to reach the quarterfinals. Marian Hossa scored early in the second period, helping Slovakia rout winless Latvia 6-0. The Slovaks will have to win Tuesday to earn a quarterfinal spot.