Saturday, 8 March 2008

The Nordic Tournament...

This has been a busy week in the Ski-jumping World Cup, the Nordic Tournament getting under way in Finland. This four round mini-event now has just one event to go, tomorrow's much anticipated event from Holmenkollen in Oslo. With Finns Janne Happonen and Janne Ahonen currently occupying the top spots, it's beginning to look as though there may, fittingly enough, be a Scandinavian victor tomorrow evening.

Last Monday strong winds curtailed the event in in Kuopio, Finland, to just one round. Janne Happonen came out on top, delighting the home fans. Who knows how things would have stood if the second round had gone ahead, and in any case the event had to be moved from Lahti, but the home fans weren't complaining and Happonen bagged 100 World Cup points.

The following day saw the great Janne Ahonen - a favorite at Afric Pepperbird - delighting the home crowd and apparently sowing some confusion in his own mind. Kuopio is said to be Ahonen's least favorite hill, and he was reported by one source to have said that his victory was 'a mistake'. You can't help but admire this guy, who always gives the impression that he sleep-walks his way through events, but rarely finishes anywhere other than on the podium.

"I did not try too much and was maybe more relaxed", Ahonen said at another of his deadpan press conferences. This was his first victory at the hill he dislikes so much, and with Tommy Morgenstern simply going through the motions after wrapping up the World Cup overall, the Finn is one of many who are clearly benefitting from something of a competitive lacuna.

Janne again looked good in Lillehammer, but after the first round it was the home crowd who were left cheering as Tom Hilde headed the standings. As has happened so often this season however, 18 year old Gregor Schlierenzauer put in a huge second round effort to secure yet another victory. Schlierenzauer had set a hill record during the practice sessions, and the World Ski-Flying champion seems to have no limits or fears.

Happonen continues to lead the tournament with Ahonen in third, but you can be sure that it won't just be the Norwegians who are aiming for top spot on the podium tomorrow. Watch out for Schlierenzauer...

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