Sochi, Russia - Japan captured the bronze medal in the large hill team jump at the Sochi Games on Monday night.
The quartet of Noriaki Kasai, Reruhi Shimizu, Daiki Ito and Taku Takeuchi combined to bring Japan its first medal in the event since winning the gold at the 1998 Nagano Games.
Germany claimed the gold with a total of 1,041.1 points, while Austria took the silver on 1,038.4.
Japan finished with a tally of 1,024.9 at the RusSki Gorki Jump Centre to clinch its sixth medal of the Sochi Games.
It was Austria’s first defeat in a team event at the Olympics or world championships since the 2003 worlds.
Kasai, Shimizu and Ito all received high marks from the judges, but Takeuchi’s scores lagged making it harder for Japan to move higher on the podium.
The medal was the second for the 41-year-old Kasai here, after his silver in the individual large hill on Saturday night. He is now tied with Kazuyoshi Funaki and Masahiko Harada for the most Olympic medals for a Japanese ski jumper with three.
“I was crying at the end,” said Kasai. “These memories will be kept forever.”
When asked if the team medal meant more than his individual one, Kasai was conflicted.
“The individual was more precious, but the team is more important,” he stated. “I actually wanted gold, but the color doesn’t mean anything anymore. I’m just very happy.”
Kasai said he is feeling more spry than ever.
“Being in the Olympics means being the best in the world and this makes me want to continue. I feel 32,” he commented.
Bolstered by Kasai’s leap of 134.0 meters, Japan was third after the first round with 507.5 points, behind Germany (519.0) and Austria (516.5).
Ito said Kasai’s performance helped him control his nerves.
“I’m very happy to be in this team,” he said. “Me and Kasai are from the same town (in Hokkaido). I saw his jump and it made me feel calmer.”
Kasai went 134.0 in both jumps, while Shimizu leaped 132.5 and 131.5.
Shimizu put Kasai’s longevity into perspective with a personal reflection.
“I remember watching Kasai at the age of 4 and being inspired,” he said.