Posted: Monday February 13, 2006 5:52AM; Updated: Monday February 13, 2006 6:40AM
Jakub Janda's anticipated duel with Janne Ahonnen in the ski jumping normal hill event never materalized.
David E. Klutho/SI
It's a different story for Janda and Ahonen, however. They jump again on Saturday in the large hill competition, but after seeing Norwegian Lars Bystoel win the gold on Sunday, neither can feel great about his chances. Bystoel is a large hill specialist who took advantage of the fact that the normal hill in Pragelato is 106 meters -- about 10 meters bigger than your garden variety "normal" hill. Bystoel's build didn't hurt him either. Light jumpers generally benefit from jumping at altitude (Pragelato is 4,980 feet above sea level), and even though he's blonde, the 5-foot-10, 132-pound Bystoel is rarely confused with Philip Seymour Hoffman.
So the duel between Janda and Ahonen that seemed so promising might never get a chance to sizzle, which is a shame. They're an interesting pair; the high-strung Janda and the stoic Ahonen, who is a drag racer in his spare time but nonetheless catches flak at home for not being as flashy as legendary jumper/boozer/brawler Matti Nykanen. Janda never seemed comfortable in Pragelato. He was 20th in his training jump, 18th after the first round and had the 11th-best jump in the second (and final) round.
"I was too aggressive," he said. "I was too hard on my skis. I was too motivated."
Ahonen, on the other hand, nailed his first jump, trailing only Russian upstart Dmitry Vasiliev after the first round. Both he and Vasiliev blew their final jumps, opening the door for Bystoel, who stood sixth after the first jump.
Because the order for the final round is determined by the standings after the first -- the leader goes last -- Bystoel had to sweat it out after his second jump. As jumper after jumper failed to top the 27-year-old, the Norwegians in the crowd got louder and louder, and when Vasiliev wobbled in midair and nearly touched the ground on his landing, they erupted. Bystoel, who has a great chance to turn into one of the Games' breakout stars by completing the individual jumping sweep on the big hill this weekend, was elated. When asked his plans for the immediate future, his response was simple: "Fly longer and beautiful."