Kasai leads large hill qualifying


Veteran ski jumper Noriaki Kasai led Japan to a 1-2 finish in the qualification round for the men’s individual large hill event at the Vancouver Olympics on Friday.

The 37-year-old Kasai, who is competing in his sixth consecutive Winter Games, scored 143.5 points with the day’s longest jump of 142.5 meters at Whistler Olympic Park, while Daiki Ito followed in second with a 139.5-meter effort on the K-125 hill for 142.6 points.

“If I go into the final round with this feeling, I will be able to jump well,” said Kasai, who could only muster 17th place in the normal hill event last Saturday.

“It has been a while since I jumped that far. I am glad my form is improving,” said Kasai.

Ito, who had the best finish among the Japanese jumpers in placing 15th on the normal hill, said, “I just jumped as usual. That distance was normal under my current form. I still can’t compare to the top jumpers.”

All four Japanese jumpers qualified for Saturday’s final round with Shohei Tochimoto (19th) and Taku Takeuchi (22nd) advancing after leaps of 130.5 and 129.5 meters.

“I am still not getting enough distance,” said Tochimoto. “I don’t know whether this kind of form will be enough for me to advance to the second round of jumps in the final, although I am improving.”

Takeuchi said, “It didn’t go quite as I had hoped but I think I will jump better tomorrow. I will just try to make it to the second round of the final.”

Ski jumpers inside the top 40 advanced to the main competition.

Vancouver normal hill gold medalist Simon Ammann of Switzerland, who was among 10 competitors who automatically qualified for the final round based on current World Cup rankings, soared 140 meters.