Noriaki Kasai: 500 are not the end
Matti Nykaenen, Jens Weissflog, Jan Bokloev, Andreas Goldberger - it feels like forever that these great athletes were competing on the hills of the world. One was jumping back then already: Noriaki Kasai.
Today his opponents are Peter and Domen Prevc (born 1999), Severin Freund and Michael Hayboeck.
Kasai doesn't care about the names of his opponents, the Japanese ignores his age, he just doesn't stop jumping, is successful and enthuses the crowds.
Noriaki Kasai, the living ski jumping legend from Japan. Kasai Sama - the distinguished Mr. Kasai.
Noriaki Kasai was on the podium once again last weekend in the World Cup in Wisla, Poland. He was third in his 498th World Cup competition in the 27th season of his career as a ski jumper. After Vikersund, Trondheim, Sapporo and Engelberg this was already Kasai's fifth podium finish this winter - incredible.
At age 43, Kasai, born on June 6th, 1972, is consistently competing on a level that most of his clearly younger opponents can only dream of.
This is especially remarkable considering how many factors have to come together perfectly in ski jumping. Factors that seem almost impossible to keep at this level with increasing age:
Required are: Total physical fitness, extreme flexibility, speed-strength, the energy to always motivate yourself and last but not least: a lot of courage.
Kasai seemingly adjusted his ski jumping system to countless changes of the technique and the rules over the past 25 years that drove others to despair.
With his characteristic ease Kasai skips training jumps on competitions sites regularly in order to give his body a break, before he then shows his best performance in the competition itself. Kasai knows exactly what he's doing, every step is well considered. The experience of Noriaki Kasai is making the difference.
Hence Kasai is currently - apart from highflyer Peter Prevc in his home country of Slovenia - the world's most popular ski jumper. No matter in which ski jumping stadium the world's best athletes are competing, nobody creates more enthusiasm among the fans than Noriaki Kasai. The spectators know how to value the performance of this exceptional athlete. What Kasai does is more than outstanding, it's unique. And in addition to that, Kasai is always a very fair sportsman, a gentleman, a great representative of his sport - ski jumping.
This is sensational for me
Mr. Kasai, what does this mark of 500 World Cup starts mean to you?
Noriaki Kasai: "For me personally this is sensational and I'm really happy about it. It will be a very emotional moment for me. I think back to the wonderful moments I experienced over the years and of course also to bitter defeats and injuries. All of that is part of a long career in sports, but of course the thoughts and the joy about what I have achieved and what I was able to experience in my sport will prevail."
500 starts are not the end
You often told that you want to continue jumping for a while. How long will this be possible?
Noriaki Kasai: "I'm competing in the World Cup ever since I was 16 years old, that's 27 years now. When I turned 40 it was my intention to continue jumping until I'm 50. This would now mean seven more years. Right now I feel fit enough to implement this plan. 500 is a nice number, but my favorite number is 6. I want to reach 600 starts, so I consider the 500 as an intermediate mark, it's not the end. If I hold the record for the most starts, it might just as well be a record that nobody can ever beat."
Think positive, enjoy the jumps
You already set some Guiness World Records, are these kind of records important to you?
Noriaki Kasai: "These records happened, you can't plan it and I don't think about it at all. When I was younger I was thinking too much and about too many things, for example about how my next jump shall be. Meanwhile I realized that I don't have to think and plan at all how my next jump should be. The movements are completely automatized, I don't think about the next jump, I just do it. Actually I'm simply enjoying my jumps. After the Olympic Games in Sochi (Editor's note: Kasai won bronze with the team and silver in the individual competition on the large hill in Sochi) I realized that it can be that easy. Since the 2014 Olympics I'm having fun and I'm enjoying my jumps. And I'm always looking forward to the next competitions."
I know that I have many fans in Germany
You will probably celebrate this anniversary in Titisee-Neustadt in Germany. Is this a good place for it?
Noriaki Kasai: "This is a very good place. Germany is an important nation in winter sports and I think (I'm not sure about it) that I took most of my wins in Germany. But I know for sure that I have many fans in Germany and so it's a good place. If I would have been able to chose, I probably would have chosen a venue in Germany for this anniversary."
arigatou gozaimasu Kasai Sama / Thanks a lot distinguished Mr. Kasai
First World Cup: December 17, 1988 in Sapporo (JPN)
17 World Cup wins
Ski Flying World Champion 1992
3 medals at Olympic Games between 1994 and 2014; most recently silver (Individual LH) and bronze (Team) in Sochi 2014
7 medals at World Championships between 1999 and 2015