The 67th 4-Hills-Tournament kicks off with the qualification in Oberstdorf on December 29th, 2018. And this Tournament will be - like the 66 editions before - once again an extremely exciting event. Because in Ski Jumping it's simply not possible to tell who will come out on top in the end. The winner of a Ski Jumping event - and especially of the 4-Hills-Tournament - are not really predictable.
Obviously, 22-year-old Japanese Ryoyu Kobayashi is the top contender this year, but Slovenia's Domen Prevc was in the same position two years ago when he won four competitions at the beginning of the season and was leading the overall World Cup. But then came the 4-Hills-Tournament and his hopes of winning the overall title were already over in Oberstdorf - Domen Prevc hasn't won another World Cup event since then.
Ryoyu Kobayashi is the top favorite
Ryoyu Kobayashi has presented himself in an amazing shape in the recent weeks. Kobayashi just has to continue jumping on the same level then nobody will be able to defeat him. But that is exactly the problem in Ski Jumping. Kobayashi would be only the second Japanese to win the 4-Hills-Tournament, the first was Kazuyoshi Funaki 1997/98.
Funaki would have almost achieved the first ever Grand Slam 21 years ago. He won in Oberstdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and Innsbruck, but then Funaki was "only" eighth in Bischofshofen. What remained was a great win and the, so far, only 4-Hills overall title for a Japanese athlete.
The only thing that Ryoyu Kobayashi is lacking, is the experience. The 22-year-old took part in the 4-Hills-Tournament in the last two years. In the overall ranking, he finished 46th (2016/17) and 22nd (2017/18), his best individual result was the 12th place in Oberstdorf 2017.
Kamil Stoch is experience personified
When it comes to experience, Kobayashi's main opponent has a lot more to offer. Poland's Kamil Stoch triumphed last year, with the historic second Grand Slam in history, after Sven Hannawald achieved this in 2001/02.
It was already the second overall title for Stoch as he had already won the 4-Hills-Tournament a year earlier. Kamil Stoch could become the second ski jumper to win the title three years in a row. Norway's Bjoern Wirkola is the only one who did this so far, he won in 1966/67, 1967/68 and 1968/69. Stoch has enormous experience and is also a great strategist. It's definitely possible, that he didn't put all of his cards on the table yet this winter. Kamil Stoch is currently third in the overall World Cup, a great starting position for the Polish superstar.
Norway wants the 4-Hills title
Last week, Norwegian head coach Alexander Stoeckl said that winning either the 4-Hils-Tournament or the Raw Air is their main goal this season. With Johann Andre Forfang (5th) and Robert Johansson (8th), Norway has two athletes in the Top 10 of the overall World Cup. The last Norwegian to win the 4-Hills title was Anders Jacobsen in 2006/07. It was Jacobsen's first World Cup season and he participated in only 5 World Cup competitions before the 4-Hills-Tournament. It was a sensational win for the "flying plumber".
Germany is waiting for the first win since Hannawald
The last time a German could win the overall title was 17 years ago. Sven Hannawald achieved the first Grand Slam in Ski Jumping history in 2001/02. This year, Karl Geiger, Stephan Leyhe and Andreas Wellinger are in the Top 10 of the overall World Cup. Germany is the only nation with three athletes among the 10 best.
Geiger won the competition in Engelberg on December 15th, it was his first individual World Cup win. His only other podium result was the second place in Lahti (normal hill) on February 21st, 2016.
Leyhe was second in the season opener in Wisla on November 18th, his first and only podium in the World Cup.
Wellinger was on the podium 25 times, he won three individual competitions. Geiger's best result in a 4-Hills-Tournament event is the seventh place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen last season. Leyhe's best result so far is the eighth place in Garmisch Partenkirchen and in Bischofshofen in January 2017. Wellinger was already on the podium twice: In third in Innsbruck and Bischofshofen last season.