LJUBNO, SLOVENIA – Sara Takanashi became the youngest-ever winner of an overall World Cup skiing crown Sunday, claiming the women’s ski jumping title with her fourth consecutive victory and eighth of the season.
The 16-year-old Takanashi marked 89.5 meters in the first round of jumps and followed up with the day’s longest jump of 92 meters for a winning total of 266.9 points at an event in Ljubno, Slovenia.
Takanashi has built an insurmountable lead of 1,137 points in the World Cup rankings after 14 of 16 events in the 2012-13 season, followed by American Sarah Hendrickson with 847 and France’s Coline Mattel with 733.
Takanashi is the first Japanese woman to win an overall World Cup title. Kenji Ogiwara prevailed for three consecutive seasons in the 1990s in the Nordic combined World Cup circuit.
“Is it final? I hadn’t thought much about the season title,” Takanashi said soon after the end of Sunday’s competition, even asking reporters for confirmation that she had clinched the title. “This is probably the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”
“I’m surprised myself at my winning so many,” Takanashi added. “I think this is the result of steady training . . . The first (reason for this victory) is the team’s support.”
Takanashi made a winning start to the season in Lillehammer last November and has claimed 11 podium finishes so far, underscoring her meteoric rise with the Sochi Winter Olympics less than one year away.
Her next test is the Nordic skiing world championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, beginning Wednesday.
According to world ski governing body FIS, Takanashi, at 16 years, 4 months, surpassed Toni Nieminen of Finland as the youngest to claim an overall World Cup in skiing. Nieminen was 16 years, 9 months, when he won his first overall title.
In Sunday’s competition on the K-85 hill, Mattel finished a distant second with 243.3 points and Hendrickson was third a further 1.5 points behind.