BAD MITTERNDORF, AUSTRIA – A celebration was held Saturday for ski jumper Noriaki “The Legend” Kasai to commemorate his achievements in a career spanning nearly 30 years.
Kasai, who is set to compete in a record eighth consecutive Winter Olympics next month, was honored by about 600 guests at the event hosted by the Austrian Ski Federation.
Among those honoring the 45-year-old were Austrians Andreas Goldberger, the 1994 Olympic bronze medalist and three-time overall World Cup champion, and Gregor Schlierenzauer, who boasts 53 World Cup crowns.
Goldberger even led a song in celebration of Kasai, who made his World Cup debut in 1988 in Sapporo, and has 17 individual World Cup victories and 63 podium finishes.
“I want to continue jumping for five years — no, 10 years,” Kasai said in German to laughter and applause from the guests.
Kasai, who is well-known in Europe as a powerful jumper, said, “I’m really surprised. I can understand if it was one’s own country’s athlete, but they must really like me.”
The Ski Association of Japan announced earlier this month that Kasai had secured a berth for February’s Pyeongchang Olympics, which will be his eighth consecutive Winter Games. He will become the sole record holder for most Winter Olympic appearances when he competes in South Korea, overtaking the title he currently shares with Russian luger Albert Demchenko, who was banned for life from all Olympic activities in the wake of the Sochi doping scandal.
Earlier in the day, Kasai had his best result of the World Cup season so far, when he finished fifth in the 12th event, recording jumps of 216.0 and 227.0 meters.
“I got a little confidence. I hope to target the podium,” the Hokkaido native said of his goal to win his first Olympic gold medal. “I have to improve a little more.”
Kasai made his Olympic debut at the 1992 Albertville Games in France, and has appeared at every event since. He has won three medals, taking team silver at Lillehammer in 1994, and silver for the large hill and team bronze at Sochi in 2014.
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