PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - Japan coach Chiharu Saito has stuck with struggling veteran Noriaki Kasai for Monday’s team competition.
A night after eight-time Winter Olympian Kasai failed to advance to the final round of the large hill event, Saito on Sunday said Kasai will jump third for Japan.
Taku Takeuchi will lead off, followed by Daiki Ito with Ryoyu Kobayashi, who has been the best jumper for Japan at the Pyeongchang Games, anchoring the unit. Kobayashi’s brother Junshiro was left out.
Saito said the experience of the 45-year-old Kasai, Takeuchi and Ito — who helped Japan secure the team bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games — was indispensable to his team.
“We need the three veterans with Olympic experience plus Ryoyu, who’s come on really strong here,” Saito said. “Norway, Germany and Poland have strong squads.
“But I think one or two from each team will make a mistake somewhere so as long as all four of us execute properly, we have a shot.”
Kasai seemed to be pleased with how Sunday’s session turned out.
“Messed up on the last one, but the first two weren’t bad at all,” he said. “Didn’t do anything differently from yesterday. I just didn’t have the wind at takeoff and came up short. It all comes down to the wind; if I get the right wind, I should be good.”
Kasai failed to make the large hill final by three places, but said he did not lose any sleep over it.
“I didn’t dwell on it at all,” Kasai said. “Regardless of the weather, I knew my jumps would be dependent on the wind so the result was easy for me to accept. The only thing that bothered me was I couldn’t qualify for a second jump with my family watching in the stands.”
Kasai said seeing his wife Reina and 2-year-old daughter Rino earlier in the day rejuvenated him.
“I met them at the Japan House this afternoon. It gave me a lift,” he said. “It’s been exhausting, mentally. I’ve been competing and training a lot. I’m not as tired physically as I am in the mind.
“I didn’t want to jump today, but after yesterday’s result, I had no choice but to.”