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Seven-time Olympian Kasai hopes to inspire teammates

Kyodo

Veteran and delegation captain Noriaki Kasai will be among the four Japanese competitors in the men’s normal hill ski jump, it was announced on Friday.

Kasai, appearing in his seventh Olympics at the ripe age of 41, is set to jump with 26-year-old Taku Takeuchi, 31-year-old Yuta Watase and 20-year-old Reruhi Shimizu, starting with Saturday’s qualifying round at Russki Gorki Ski Jumping Center. Daiki Ito, 28, was not named to the normal hill squad.

Kasai is set to take part Saturday but is among 10 ski jumpers that have already qualified for Sunday evening’s final competition.

“It’s my seventh Olympics and I’m in really top condition, so I am shooting for the gold medal,” said Kasai, whose best finish at an Olympics was a silver in the team large hill event at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. “As captain, I want to help motivate the other athletes to win a lot of medals with a strong performance.”

Japan team coach Chiharu Saito said he has “no problem” selecting Kasai and that the other jumpers named, including Takeuchi who had the top effort of 100.5 meters in the first run in Thursday’s official practice, have all shown strong form in practice.

Four-time World Cup winner Ito, Saito said, is being reserved for the large hill event. “We want to use him for the large hill, which is his specialty. So I decided to give him a rest.”

Takeuchi said after his practice on Thursday: “I’ve gotten a good feeling for the jump here, much better than I felt yesterday.”

Kasai did not take part in practice for the second day in a row.