Olympics / Winter Olympics

Ski jump legend Kasai eyes 2026 Games

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

Noriaki Kasai, the silver medalist on the men’s large hill at the Sochi Olympics a year ago, is aiming to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and even beyond, the ski jump legend told reporters after the Ski Association of Japan’s 90th-year anniversary ceremony on Sunday.

“My current goal is to win the gold medal at Pyeongchang and I want to achieve it in front of my family,” said the 42-year old Kasai, who got married after the Sochi Games last year. “When I reached 40, I decided I would call it quits when I turned 50. But now Sapporo, my birthplace, is bidding for the 2026 Games. I will be 54 by that time, but it is too big a chance to give up.”

Kasai became one of the most popular athletes in Japan when he made his seventh Olympics last February and took two medals in ski jumping, earning him the nickname “Legend.” He also took the bronze in the team event as well as the silver, his first Olympic medal in an individual event.

Kasai also broke his own record for the oldest winner on the World Cup circuit at 42 years, five months, last November in Ruka, Finland. He was sixth overall in the World Cup after missing four events due to a back injury.

“Breaking my record again is one of my goals next season, but I also want to be the overall No. 1 in the World Cup,” Kasai said. “I had good jumps in the competitions I took part in. If I hadn’t missed those four tournaments, my ranking could have been better.”

His performances at the Sochi Olympics and at World Cup events last season kept him busy this offseason, too.

“It’s been a year since the Sochi Olympics, but I got a lot of offers of talk shows. I’ve been busy, but I never slow down the pace of my training. I love training,” Kasai said. “Having good results in international tournaments and emphasizing that I’m a Sapporo native, that can help Sapporo become the host city of the 2026 Games.”

Asked what he will do if Sapporo fails with its bid, Kasai said with a laugh, “Then I will retire when I turn 50.”

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