KRASNAYA, POLYANA RUSSIA – Normal hill champion Kamil Stoch put himself in a strong position to add the large hill to his Sochi Olympic medal collection after posting the longest jump Friday.
Daiki Ito and Reruhi Shimizu, meanwhile, qualified second and third, respectively.
Ito had a leap of 130.5 meters for 122.0 points, and the 20-year-old Shimizu, appearing in his first Winter Games, went the same distance for 120.4 at RusSki Gorki Jumping Center.
Not far behind with a jump of 127 meters that was good enough for sixth was Taku Takeuchi, who is making his second straight Olympic appearance.
That came in a trial jump ahead of the qualification round. But since he leads the World Cup standings and the top 10 jumpers automatically qualified for Saturday’s final, he decided not to jump in the qualifying round.
Stoch set the tone early when he jumped 136 meters and placed first in the trial.
Michael Hayboeck of Austria led those jumpers who needed to qualify with a distance of 131 meters, one of 50 competitors through to the gold medal final at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center.
“The height of the hill is OK, it suits me,” the 22-year-old Hayboeck said. “Everything works. My expectations are high.”
Hayboeck, who won the normal hill qualification last Saturday and was fifth in the final, jumped 131 meters for a score of 124.8 points.
The large hill here has a “K” point of 125 — the expected distance on the jump is 125 meters, with points deducted or added for finishing on either side of that mark, along with style points.
Defending champion Simon Ammann of Switzerland, attempting to win a fifth Olympic gold, was also among those not needing to qualify.
“I will do everything to be on the podium somewhere,” Ammann said.
Japan Olympic delegation captain Noriaki Kasai, a 41-year-old veteran who also did not need to qualify, skipped the qualification round, as did Severin Freund of Germany, who finished second to Stoch in the trial run.
Three Americans qualified for the final — Nicholas Alexander of Brattleboro, Vt., Anders Johnson of Park City, Utah, and Nicholas Fairall of Andover, N.H. Peter Frenette of Saranac Lake, N.Y., failed to advance.
Dimitry Vassiliev of Russia thrilled the near-capacity crowd of 7,500 when he advanced to the final.
He said he spoke Friday with teammate Mikhail Maksimochkin, who fractured two ribs in a fall Wednesday and spent two days in the hospital. Maksimochkin had to pull out of the large hill competition.
“I know he is in the Olympic Village, he hasn’t lost his spirit,” Vassiliev said. “We are constantly in contact. It’s so sad, he has had quite good jumps, we wish him a speedy recovery.”
After Saturday’s individual final, the men reconvene Sunday for a single training session for the large hill team event, where Austria is the defending champion.
The Monday team final concludes the ski jumping program at the Sochi Games.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5