Austria defends its ski jump team crown
• Photo gallery: Winter Olympics Monday Feb. 22
By Arnie Stapleton
WHISTLER, British Columbia — The Austrians were so far ahead of the field in the Olympic team ski jump that the only drama was how far 20-year-old Gregor Schlierenzauer would fly off the large hill.
His teammates, practically celebrating their gold medal as they awaited the final jump of the Vancouver Olympics, took bets.
Fans and competitors did, too.
Surely, he'll go for it. But how far can he go?
"I said about 144 meters long," recalled Austria's Wolfgang Loitzl.
Schlierenzauer, already a double-bronze winner at these games, sat on the gate on a sun-splashed Monday, took a few breaths and pushed off down the ramp, thrusting himself into the air with the biggest jump of his life.
The crowd at Olympic Whistler Park gasped as he touched down 146.5 meters later, then squatted and put out his left hand to steady himself, but never touching the snow.
"It is a perfect feeling to be on such a strong team," said Schlierenzauer. "To be an Olympic champion is amazing."
Schlierenzauer's jump put the final touch on the Austrians' second straight Olympic gold medal.
The Austrian team of Schlierenzauer, Thomas Morgenstern, Andreas Kofler and Loitzl defended its title from the Turin Games with 1,107.9 points. Germany won a distant silver with 1,035.8 points, and Norway took bronze with 1,030.3.
Switzerland's Simon Ammann, who won both individual events, didn't compete in the team event because his country didn't have the four jumpers needed for a team.
The American team placed 11th in the 12-team field and failed to advance to the eight-team final round.