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A ski jumping partnership comes to an end

Ammann (left) and Küttel were rivals and remain friends Keystone

Four-times Olympic ski jumping champion Simon Ammann will be starting his competitive season without his long-term teammate and good friend Andreas Küttel.

This content was published on December 1, 2011 - 13:43
swissinfo.ch and agencies

Küttel, himself a world championship gold medalist, has now retired from the sport. The two had shared many highs and lows over more than a decade.

The ski jumping World Cup series started on November 26 in Kuusamo, Finland – without Ammann. He has decided to begin his campaign in Lillehammer, Norway, on December 2-4.

Thirty year old Ammann says that although he has had to build up muscle, which makes the body slower and can affect take-off speed, his training has been coming together.

“My highlights are the home hills in Engelberg, I really love to jump there and the Four Hills  Tournament,” Ammann, who was second last season, told swissinfo.ch.

Also on the agenda is ski flying – ski jumping’s extreme cousin – namely the world championships in February 2012 in Norway.

“I hope to fly over 240 metres. My record is 238.5m, it’s quite a distance and that’s going to be a great competition.”

But he will miss 32-year-old Küttel. “One thing that is really nice is that we always enjoyed each other’s successes. That’s great for a career in sport but also for life,” said Ammann.

Ammann was speaking at the launch of a book, Simon Ammann, Andreas Küttel – the unequal twins, by former Swiss Ski communications chief Marc Wälti, which documents their parallel careers.

“Twins”

“On the one hand, they are very similar, they are nearly the same age, they look similar and they are doing the same sport,” Wälti said of the “twins”.

“But on the other hand they are very different: Andreas is more the head guy, Simon is more the stomach guy so Andreas first thinks about something and then tries it and Simon is the contrary.”

Indeed, according to the book, Küttel was the disciplined “model athlete” – who in other times would have undoubtedly been Swiss number one – whereas Ammann has a tremendous focus and is a fierce competitor.

Ammann shot to worldwide fame in 2002 when he won two gold medals at the Olympics in Salt Lake City, aged just 20.

With his glasses, boyish demeanor and great enthusiasm he was soon nicknamed the “Harry Potter” of ski jumping. His silver jacket which he wore to the medal ceremony – which the book reveals was frowned upon by his sports bosses – became legendary. He became one of the most well-known Swiss sportsmen, even appearing on the David Lettermann show in the United States.

Küttel, a promising jumper who took his first ski jumping steps aged four when he threw himself off the family sofa, only to hit the coffee table and end up with a scar, celebrated with the Swiss team.

Lows…

However, in 2002-2005, both men went through a difficult period. Küttel even considered retiring in 2003. Ammann was dogged by sleeping problems.

Both ended the 2006 Olympics without a medal.

“You are never safe from having a down time, you go down the hill but your career is also going down,” Ammann explained.

“It was difficult but we had a lot of friendship and rivalry which helped us going through the highs and lows but also the process of building up a career so that we both had success.”

Küttel adds: “It was clear that we would jump against each other, but normally it was our idea that we were  jumping against the world or other nations, and the most fun was when we both were able to win.”

This indeed happened in 2006 at the World Cup in Lillehammer with Ammann first and Küttel second.

And highs

But by the end of the decade Küttel had won a World Cup gold in Liberec in 2009 and Ammann had jumped to another two Olympic gold medals at Vancouver in 2010. This makes Ammann the only Swiss to gain four Olympics golds and the only ski jumper to win four golds in individual Olympic events.

The two athletes also presided over technical changes, most notably in new bindings, which caused a spat in Vancouver with the Austrian team, which deemed them illegal. The Swiss won the day.

Küttel retired in March 2011 and now lives in Denmark with his wife and son, working part-time as a sports teacher. He doesn't miss his old sport.

“I have been jumping since the age of seven and been away from home a lot since the age of 12, travelling, as well as training every day,” he told swissinfo.ch.

“My body is that of a ski jumper and my mind was built by these competition circumstances. Ski jumping was my life for a long time and now maybe it’s my hobby for a while. But for sure, ski jumping made me who I am.”

And he will certainly be keeping in touch with his old friend – Ammann is godfather to his small son.

The “twins”

Andreas Küttel

Born: April 25, 1979, Einsiedeln (central Switzerland, where he has a ski jump hill named in his honour)

Married to: Dorota, one son, qualified sports teacher, now lives in Denmark

Personal best: 222 metres (Planica 2006)

Notable medals: gold at the individual large hill event at Nordic World Ski championships in Liberec

Retired in 2011

Simon Ammann

Born: June 25, 1981 in Grabs, canton St Gallen

Married to: Yana, now lives in Schindellegi in canton Schwyz in central Switzerland

Personal best: 238.5m (Vikersund 2011)

Notable medals: 4 Olympic golds (2 in 2002, 2 in 2010)

Announced earlier in 2011 that he wanted to continue his career

End of insertion

The book

Simon Ammann, Andreas Küttel - the unequal twins was published in October 2011, and had the collaboration of both athletes. It is published in German.

It not only details the two ski jumpers’ careers but also includes background information on the sport and how the Swiss team was built up. There are also many private photos.

End of insertion

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