Richard Freitag starts 4-Hills-Tournament with a qualification win
The 66th 4-Hills-Tournament couldn't have started any better for Richard Freitag. The 26-year-old won the qualification in Oberstdorf clearly ahead of Japanese Junshiro Kobayashi and Austria's Stefan Kraft. This result further raises the hopes for the first German 4-Hills-Tournament winner in 16 years.
Richard Freitag is in the best shape of his life at the start of the 66th 4-Hills-Tournament and he was also not distracted by a long break due to the difficult weather conditions before his jump in the qualification. Freitag jumped on 130.5 m and took the win today with his total of 148.1 points. The second place went to Junshiro Kobayashi of Japan, who is still presenting himself in a very strong shape.
"I'm able to adjust to the situation well and I'm optimistic that I can do it. This day gives me a positive feeling. It was important for me to have good jumps in the training. The qualification wasn't really a good indicator because it was too windy. It's always nice if you can celebrate after your jump. It's a lot of fun when the fans are giving their best. You always have to continue working, step by step. Tomorrow I want to go to the hill with a good feeling and then I hope that I can jump well", explained Freitag.
Karl Geiger also showed a very good performance and was the second-best German in fourth. Stephan Leyhe (th), Markus Eisenbichler (10th), Andreas Wellinger (14th), David Siegel (16th) and Pius Paschke (30th) provided yet another great team result for the Germans.
Kraft hopes for a mistake of Freitag
Austria's Stefan Kraft was also jumping well in the qualification: "I'm definitely satisfied with the third place. My jumps here got better and better and so I'm very satisfied with this day. Richard Freitag is in an amazing shape, the conditions were really difficult now and he still jumps that far. We have to hope that he makes a mistake in order to have a chance", said Kraft, who officially made Richard Freitag the top favorite of this Tournament.
The longest jump of the day was shown by Norway's Johann Andre Forfang. The 22-year-old jumped on 140 m in good wind conditions and finished fifth. Forfang's teammates Johansson and Tande came in 15th and 20th and also had no problems to qualify for the opening event of the 4-Hills-Tournament on Saturday.
Best Pole in the qualification was Dawid Kubacki in sixth. His teammate Kamil Stoch, who many consider one of the favorites for the overall title after his recent results, has to improve his performance in the competition in order to meet these high expectations. The defending champion finished only 28th today, right behind his fellow countryman Maciej Kot.
For some of the young athletes, who are participating in the 4-Hills-Tournament for the first time, it was a successful day. The two Slovenes Timi Zajc (19th) and Ziga Jelar (26th), Jonathan Learoyd of France (33rd) and Finland's Eetu Nousiainen (36th) qualified today and will make their debut in a 4-Hills-Tournament competition on Saturday.
Jakub Wolny, Denis Kornilov, Dimitry Vassiliev and Jurij Tepes were among those who failed to make the cut for the Top 50 today. Also Fatih Arda Ipcioglu, the first ever Turkish ski jumper at the 4-Hills-Tournament, could not qualify for tomorrow's event.
Young vs. old in the first round
Today's results lead to some interesting K.O. duels in the first round of the competition. Manuel Fettner will have to jump against Kamil Stoch, Daniel Andre Tande competes against his teammate Andreas Stjernen, only 17-year-old Timi Zajc will face 45-year-old Noriaki Kasai and with Simon Ammann vs. Gregor Deschwanden there will be a Swiss duel for a spot in the final round.
The opening event of the 66th 4-Hills-Tournament will start on Saturday at 4:30 pm CET (trial round: 3 pm CET).
Fatih Arda Ipcioglu (TUR): I'm the first Turkish ski jumper at the 4-Hills-Tournament. This is a new sport in our country, but we have hills, we have everything. Now I'm on the road to the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. The atmosphere here is really good, it was a nice experience for me. I will definitely be here again, this was just the beginning.
Vincent Descombes Sevoie (FRA): My shape is not as good as last year, but I hope that it will improve in time for the big events, like the Ski Flying World Championships and the Olympic Games. It's already getting better and I'm gaining more self-confidence. Since two years, I'm always getting additional energy at the 4-Hills-Tournament.
Severin Freund (GER): Of course I would prefer to jump, but actually it's very nice to be here anyway. It also gives me additional motivation for the rehabilitation. Right now everything is going well for me, but I still think it's important to make the right steps at the right time. That's why I won't start jumping again before the summer. My goal now are the World Championships in Seefeld and there's a lot of time until then. The German team is in a very good position because several jumpers are in a good shape. But the 4-Hills-Tournament is special, maybe we will know more after tomorrow's competition.
Gregor Schlierenzauer (AUT): I was satisfied with the training round, the jump in the qualification was not so good, but the conditions were tough as well. Right now small details make a big difference in my jumps. For us, it's like Wimbledon when the 4-Hills-Tournament starts and it's always impressive to jump in front of a full stadium.
Peter Prevc (SLO): My jumps were good today, that's all I can say. I don't care if there are pre-qualified athletes or not. We have to accept the rules as they are. There are so many fans here because the Germans are jumping so well and it's a lot of fun to jump in front of a big crowd.
Simon Ammann (SUI): I was always a bit late at the take-off and so I lost a few meters. But maybe it's not so bad to be in the background a bit today. I think it's good that everyone has to qualify. We'll see how it works during the 4-Hills-Tournament. One advantage is that now everyone has the equipment checked, that's good for the fairness.
Andreas Wellinger (GER): My jumps were okay today. We can't change the conditions, it was not so easy today. But you don't have any influence on that so you just have to make a good jump, then you can go far enough anyway. I think it's good that there are no pre-qualified athletes anymore at the 4-Hills-Tournament because now no one can take a spot of a Lucky Loser.