Kamil Stoch of Poland won Sunday's Ski Flying event on the "Monsterbakken" in Vikersund. In an extremely exciting competition, Stoch had jumps of 238.5 m and 237 m (466.6 points) and took the win ahead of Noriaki Kasai of Japan (239.5 m and 241.5 m; 448.0 points) and Austria's Michael Hayboeck (241.5 m and 222.5 m; 430.4 points). This was the 22nd win in the World Cup for Stoch, the second in Ski Flying. It was also a dramatic final of the battle for the RAW AIR overall title. At the end Stefan Kraft of Austria could take home the first ever RAW AIR trophy. US American Kevin Bickner fell, but didn't suffer any serious injuries.
"This was a great success for me today. Ski Flying is always difficult, because the speed is much higher and small mistakes cost you more than in Ski Jumping. When the conditions are changing like today it's even more difficult for us. I really liked this RAW AIR Tournament, the organization was really good, I can't complain about anything. Every competition was on the highest level and for me it was an honor to take part in this Tournament. Next year I'll try to be even better prepared. I'm sorry that Andreas didn't win, he was the most consistent athlete and made only one mistake. And that was today, when it was most important", Stoch said after his win.
Noriaki Kasai is one of a kind
One athlete wasn't impressed at all by the difficult conditions on the HS 225 Vikersundbakken, that were challenging for many athletes. Veteran Noriaki Kasai had to calm flights of 239.5 m and 241.5 m. The 44-year-old finished second and achieved his 62nd podium finish. "This is fantastic, incredible. The conditions were difficult today and I had some luck. Now I'm looking forward to the weekend in Planica and I want to win there. Then winning a gold medal in PyeongChang is my next big goal, I haven't won Olympic gold yet", Kasai said about his next goals after today's competition.
Hayboeck best Austrian
"It was a great day for me. The last days weren't that easy, especially with the 26th place in Trondheim. Ski Flying is something different and I got better and better with every jump and I'm really happy that I could achieve my first podium in Ski Flying today. The conditions were great for Ski Flying, head wind is always good. Of course it was also changing a bit, but you have to focus on yourself and it was not dangerous at any time. The ten days of the RAW AIR were very exciting, it was something new. I hope that we will have this Tournament again next year", explained Hayboeck. For the first time during this RaW AIR Tournament, Stefan Kraft was not the best Austrian in a competition.
Shock for Kevin Bickner
US American Kevin Bickner was the "Man of the Day" in Vikersund. At first he had great flights in the trial round (233.5 m) and in the first round (244.5 m), both were new personal bests and US records and enthused the fans. In the final Bickner soared to 234.5 m again, but crashed after the landing. He was treated in the outrun and then taken to the ambulance. But the good news came later this evening when he went to dinner together with his teammates. "Everything is okay, nothing happened, only a few bruises", Bickner said and smiled.
Andreas Wellinger's RAW AIR��dream ended on the final stretch
Actually everything was on track for Andreas Wellinger, he was leading after the first round with a great jump of 242 m, then Stefan Kraft, with whom Wellinger was fighting for this overall title for the last ten days, made a mistake in the final and landed already after 215 m. Wellinger just needed a solid jump on the huge Vikersundbakken. Then it got dramatic: Wellinger had difficult conditions and not his best jump, he landed at 166 m and was devastated. He finished 18th and third in the overall RAW AIR ranking. This overall win would have been his biggest individual title so far - and it was close. Wellinger was deeply disappointed. The coaches and other team members comforted him right away, but still it's a huge disappointment.
With today's win Kamil Stoch took the second place in the RAW AIR. First winner of this new Tournament was Austria's Stefan Kraft, who was awarded the RAW AIR trophy by Norwegian prime minister Erna Stolberg and won a prize money of 60 000,- Euro. "I took too much risk in my second jump and I really had to fight for every meter. I tried everything to fly over 200 m and then Andreas also had some problems and not the best conditions. It showed that everything can happen in Ski Flying and that you have to remain focused until the last jump. Now I'm really happy that I'm the first overall winner. The RAW AIR was well organized, the team took good care about us and so we could show lots of great jumps. Everything was good, but now we are happy that it's over. It was a great experience", said Kraft.
Local hero Johann Andre Forfang had the longest jump of the day with 245.5 m in the second round and was the best Norwegian in fourth. He closely missed the podium today and came in less than two points behind Michael Hayboeck. Also in the overall ranking of the RAW AIR the best Norwegian, Andreas Stjernen (ninth on Sunday) was fourth.
Only a few days before the World Cup final in front of their home crowd in Planica, the Slovenes proved that they always have to be reckoned with on the world's largest hills. Peter Prevc, Jurij Tepes and Domen Prevc finished on the places six to eight today and seem to be very well prepared for the upcoming tasks.
Behind Kevin Bickner, who achieved his best World Cup result in 15th despite the fall, Simon Ammann was 16th and presented himself in a really good shape as well with jumps of 239.5 m and 230 m. Young Italian Alex Insam was 25th and scored his first World Cup points.
RAW AIR has a future
The premiere of the RAW AIR Tournament got very positive feedback by athletes, coaches and officials. This new Tour has a big future.
The Ski Jumping World Cup ends next weekend with the final events in Planica (SLO). Three Ski Flying competitions (2 individual, 1 team) will be held there. Poland's Kamil Stoch and Austria's Stefan Kraft will be fighting for the overall title there. Currently Kraft has a lead of 31 points over Stoch.