Ski jumpers soar towards Olympic gold

Küttel (left) and Ammann are both eyeing the Olympic podium Keystone

Two Swiss ski jumpers have a chance of securing a medal at the upcoming winter Olympics in Turin, with Andreas Küttel even looking like one of the favourites.

This content was published on February 11, 2006 - 10:44

He will be backed up by Simon Ammann, the dual Olympic champion in Salt Lake City in 2002, who is close to getting back to his best.

On February 12 and 18, Ammann will defend both his titles at Pragelato, with a number of athletes looking to succeed him.

Like the Swiss did four years ago, there are a number of outsiders who are hoping to benefit from exceptional circumstances. And then there are the favourites, such as the Czech Jakub Janda, Finland's Janne Ahonen, Germany's Michael Uhrmann or Austria's Andreas Wildhoelzl.

The gold medal could remain though in Swiss hands if the form guide is anything to judge by. Ammann is still in with a chance, but perhaps even more tellingly, Küttel is considered the danger man.

He finally broke through this year with two World Cup wins in December, and his confidence is running high.

"I'm rather surprised by my results so far this season," admits Küttel, who is running third in the World Cup. "My preparation was good last summer and during the autumn, but I didn't think I could post regular results."

Small things

Irregularity is the word that defines Ammann's performances so far, as he tries to recapture the form that earned him two Olympic golds. "I do better in training than during competition," he told swissinfo.

He refuses to panic though. "In our sport, a whole lot of small things have to come together to get it right," he added.

"I haven't been able to manage that since the last Olympics. But I feel I'm close to getting back to my best."

These will be the third Olympics for Ammann, who says the event occupies a special place.

"It's a big part of my life," he admitted. "I'm happy I was bitten by the Olympic bug eight years ago."

If the World Cup hasn't gone quite to plan so far this season, Ammann warned he wouldn't be going to Italy to take a backseat to other athletes.

"I want to do something exceptional at Pragelato," he added. "A top-ten finish would be a good result for a Swiss jumper, but at the Olympics, only the medals count."

"Something special"

Küttel knows the feeling, after finishing sixth on the big hill in Salt Lake City. "It was a good result, but as such meant nothing," he told swissinfo.

The result might have also been worth a headline or two in other times, but Ammann's performance overshadowed his own.

"What Simon accomplished was incredible," he said. "It was a big moment not just for him, but for the whole team."

Küttel, from Einsiedeln in the heart of Switzerland, is looking forward to going back to the Games.

"I'm proud to be going to Turin to represent Switzerland, and I'm heading there with the feeling I can accomplish something special," he added.

So will it be a podium finish or even Olympic gold for the Swiss? "I would be good to be among the best," said Ammann. "But I dream of making big jumps, and a medal is part of that dream."

swissinfo, Raphaël Donzel

Key facts

Andreas Küttel has won two World Cup events this season, in Lillehammer (Norway) and Harrachov (Czech Republic).
Last season, he finished seventh in the overall standings.
He was sixth on the big hill (K120) at the last Olympics.

Simon Ammann clinched gold in the two individual ski jumping events at the 2002 Olympics.
But he won only one World Cup event in his career, Oslo in 2002.
He finished seventh in the overall standings of the World Cup during the 2001/2002 season.

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In brief

Andreas Küttel was born April 25, 1979, in Einsiedeln.
He began competing in the World Cup in 1993.
The biggest distance he has jumped is 204.5 metres at Planica in Slovenia (2004).

Simon Ammann was born on June 25, 1981 in Grabs, eastern Switzerland.
He began competing in the World Cup in 1997.
The biggest distance he has jumped is 218 metres at Planica in Slovenia (2002).
He has already taken part in the last two Winter Olympics.

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