Kobayashi, 3 other Japanese ski jumpers advance to finals

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ski jumper Ryoyu Kobayashi competes in a men’s normal hill individual qualification event during the Beijing Olympics at the National Ski Jumping Centre in Zhangjiakou, China, on Saturday.

ZHANGJIAKOU, China — Ski jumper Ryoyu Kobayashi finished fourth in the men’s normal hill individual qualification event at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday.

Kobayashi, 25, advanced to the final competition to be held Sunday, with a distance of 99 meters and a total score of 111.4 points, at the National Ski Jumping Centre in Zhangjiakou.

After the qualification, Kobayashi expressed satisfaction with his first performance at the Beijing Games. “It was a good jump,” he said. “I hope I can also produce two good jumps tomorrow.”

Three other Japanese jumpers — Yukiya Sato, 26, Junshiro Kobayashi, 30, and Naoki Nakamura, 25 — also advanced. Sato placed 10th by earning 103.6 points with a distance of 100 meters, Junshiro Kobayashi, Ryoyu’s brother, came 26th by scoring 88.2 points with a jump of 93 meters. Nakamura scored 87 points with a distance of 88.5 meters, placing 29th.

Marius Lindvik of Norway finished top in the qualification round with a distance of 100.5 meters and a total score of 116.7 points.

Kobayashi always his natural self

ZHANGJIAKOU, China — Ryoyu Kobayashi looked more relaxed than any of the other Japanese jumpers who participated in a practice session at the National Ski Jumping Centre on Friday. Even though he was seen as the favorite to land the gold medal in the men’s normal hill individual event, he did not seem to be anxious.

On Thursday, he went to the top of the hill at the venue for the first time. Asked about his first impression of it, he grinned and said, “It’s chilly.”

He said, “I’m as excited as I usually am.”

Kobayashi was 21 years old when he competed in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in which he placed seventh in the normal hill individual event.

“I wasn’t nervous,” he said, recalling the Games in which he was still in a position where his seniors generally had the lead.

Soon after the Games, he earned his first World Cup victory in the 2018-19 season to become the overall individual winner, the first non-European jumper to claim that title. His name is now known throughout the ski jumping world.

From around that time on, his coaches and teammates began to call him “ace.” But despite being in a different position, he still gets excited to tackle a new jumping hill for the first time and expresses his joy in flying far in the same way as he used to.

On Friday, he finished the practice after two jumps when he could have had three. At the venue, he was interviewed by Noriaki Kasai, a ski jumper who is now in Beijing as a commentator for a broadcaster. Kasai coaches the Tsuchiya Home Co. ski team, to which Kobayashi also belongs.

Having received encouragement from his mentor, Kobayashi’s delight was obvious even though his face was covered by a mask.

This is the second Olympics for him to compete as a gold medal favorite. He must have learned a lesson in performing well from Kasai, who has competed in eight consecutive Winter Games.

Eager to win the top medal, the jumper said, “There’s a good chance.”