SOCHI, RUSSIA – Sara Takanashi, the favorite for the gold medal in the inaugural Olympic women’s normal hill ski jump on Tuesday night, was kept off the podium after a disappointing effort at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center.
After winning 10 of the 13 World Cup events this season, Takanashi, 17, was a prohibitive favorite to claim Japan’s second gold in any winter sport since the 1998 Nagano Games, but she came in fourth.
Germany’s Carina Vogt claimed the gold with a total of 247.4 points. Austria’s Daniela Iraschko-Stolz took the silver with 246.2, while France’s Coline Mattel earned the bronze with 245.2.
Takanashi was in third place heading into the final round. She finished with a total of 243.0.
She leaped exactly 100 meters in the first round but could manage only a disappointing 98.5 in the final round. “I couldn’t jump the way I wanted to on both attempts,” said Takanashi. “In Japan the jumps are really different. I did my best.
“I came here wanting to do my best. I’m incredibly disappointed,” she added. “I tried to think as I always do, but something went wrong. I became uptight and I just wasn’t as sharp as I usually am. I have realized my mental weakness.”
Yuki Ito finished seventh with 241.8 points.
Takanashi wept after the final scores were announced. “All kinds of emotions just flowed out,” she said. “I thought about all the people who supported me up to this point.”
Despite the setback, Takanashi is already looking ahead. “If I get a chance, I want to come back to the Olympics a much more polished ski jumper,” she said.
Asked if there was something else she wanted to do besides ski jumping, Takanashi was adamant, replying: “There is nothing I want to do except for ski jumping. My career has been developing with the whole ski jumping movement in Japan. I’m grateful to everyone that helped me.”