Japan ski jumpers arrive in Sochi with high hopes

Kyodo

Sara Takanashi pledged to pull out all the stops to become the first woman to win a Winter Olympic ski jumping gold medal after arriving in Sochi in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Women’s ski jumping will make its Olympic debut here and Takanashi has arrived in Russia with confidence high after winning consecutive World Cup events in Austria last weekend, setting a record for the most women’s World Cup victories in a single season in the process.

“I want to give my best performance,” said the 17-year-old Takanashi. “I am aiming for that (the gold medal) but first of all I want to make sure I am on top of each and every thing.”

Takanashi has 19 World Cup victories in her career and podium finishes in all 13 events this winter.

Her 10th win of the season on Sunday saw her go one better than the previous record held by American Sarah Hendrickson, who will be challenging Takanashi for the gold having regained fitness after undergoing right knee surgery in August.

“I can compete against Hendrickson-san and that is what I am looking forward to from now,” said Takanashi.

The Hokkaido schoolgirl represents Japan’s best chance of a gold medal in ski jumping, but 41-year-old veteran Noriaki Kasai, the captain of the Japanese delegation, is enjoying a good run of form and will also be gunning for gold in his seventh appearance at the Winter Games.

“Obviously I want to win a gold medal. I am in good condition,” said Kasai, who became the oldest winner on the men’s ski jumping World Cup circuit on Jan. 11 in Austria.

“I have never won (an Olympic) gold medal so that is my biggest motivation,” he said.

A medal of any color is the main target for Japan’s men’s ski jumping team.

Team member Taku Takeuchi, who was hospitalized after falling ill in January, said, “I want to make use of all the experience I have gained until now, and since we are here we will aim for gold.”