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Kobayashi leaps into rarefied air with 11th World Cup win of season

Kyodo

Ryoyu Kobayashi won his 11th event on the 2018-2019 World Cup circuit on Sunday, the third day of competition in Willingen, becoming the sixth ski jumper in history, and the first Japanese, to post 11 wins in a single season.

Kobayashi, who had the longest jumps in both rounds, also claimed the overall Willingen Five win, in which all five jumps — qualifying and both jumps on Saturday and Sunday — counted. He scored 737.5 points to earn an extra €25,000 in prize money.

Despite struggling in the practice round in the men’s large hill individual event on Sunday, Kobayashi jumped 146.0 meters in the first round then tied Germany’s Richard Freitag with 144.0 meters in the second round for a total of 274.4 points.

“The conditions were tough but I was helped by good wind conditions. Both jumps were good,” Kobayashi said.

“I want to continue making my best jumps.”

Markus Eisenbichler of Germany placed second with 252.8 points and Piotr Zyla of Poland took third with 250.0 points. Freitag finished fourth.

With the result, Kobayashi finished on the podium for the 16th time this season. According to the International Ski Federation, Kobayashi surpassed Kazuyoshi Funaki, who achieved 15 podium finishes in the 1998-1999 season, for the most by a Japanese jumper.

The 22-year-old Kobayashi is looking to become the first Japanese man to be crowned overall World Cup champion and can seal the title as early as his next event on March 10, after the world championships.

He has a clear lead over Kamil Stoch (1,145) and Stefan Kraft (1,017) in the World Cup standings with 1,620 points so far, with six individual competitions left this season.

The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships will be held Feb. 20 through March 3 in Seefeld, Austria.

Elsewhere for Japan, Sara Takanashi finished third at a women’s ski jumping competition as reigning Olympic champion Maren Lundby of Norway collected her ninth World Cup victory of the season.

Takanashi placed fifth after the first jump of 122.5 meters, but finished on the podium after her 124-meter leap for a total of 250.3 points at the final competition before the world championships open later this month.

The 22-year-old Japanese was 42.1 points behind Lundby, who won her 22nd World Cup title of her career with jumps of 135 and 135.5 meters.

“I was motivated to work harder after seeing her great jumps,” said Takanashi. “I know that things will work out in the future if I continue the things I’ve been working on one at a time.”