• Kyodo

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Japan’s Takanobu Okabe took fourth place on the first leg of the annual ski jumping Four Hills Tour on Thursday, the best finish among Japanese competitors this season and virtually assuring a spot at the Turin Olympics in February.

The 35-year-old Okabe sailed 128 and 130.5 meters for a total of 260.8 points on the K-120 hill. Based on the criteria set by the Ski Association of Japan, Olympic berths are given to those who stood on the podium, if not within the top six, in any World Cup event.

It will be Okabe’s first Olympic appearance since he won the gold medal in the team event in the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

“It’s good to finish in a one-digit position,” Okabe said. “I’ll try to continue performing well.”

Defending champion Janne Ahonen of Finland won this individual competition with 270.9 points from 130.5 and 130 meters, beating Norway’s Roar Ljoekelsoey, who scored 268.4 points. Jakub Janda of the Czech Republic came third with 262.6 points.

From Japan, Noriaki Kasai was 13th and Daiki Ito 16th. Tsuyoshi Ichinohe and Hiroki Yamada missed the cut after the first jump.

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