When the Austrian Stefan Kraft took off from the take-off in Planica as the leader after the first round and the last jumper of the competition, the German ski jumpers began to tremble down in the outrun. Andreas Wellinger was second behind Poland’s Piotr Zyla and ahead of Karl Geiger. And then the jubilation was great: Kraft fell behind Wellinger, also behind Geiger. And that meant: World title for Zyla, silver for Wellinger (26), bronze for his 30-year-old teammate.
This success is a salvation for the German ski jumpers, after they had performed worse at this year’s Four Hills Tournament than they had in twelve years. Wellinger was still the best in eleventh place overall. On this Saturday evening in Slovenia all the frustration was forgotten. “It’s incredibly cool,” said Wellinger on ZDF. Geiger spoke of an “intensive day” and added: “It feels so good.”
The two of the German team thus secured medals number five and six of these Nordic title fights. The women ski jumpers led by Katharina Althaus had already triumphed in the team competition that day and Nordic combined Julian Schmid had fought for second place. “I’m completely exhausted,” said national coach Stefan Horngacher. “The fact that we now have two medals is unbelievable.”
The starting position for the German ski jumpers before the final round was excellent: After the first jump, Wellinger and Geiger were in second and third place behind Stefan Kraft. Constantin Schmid was also convincing in fifth place. Accordingly, Geiger went aggressively into the final: “Attack in the second! It’s all very close together.” In view of the narrow gaps, Horngacher said: “It’s a millimeter jump.”
The fact that Andreas Wellinger was rewarded with silver in the end is like a fairy tale. The team Olympic champion from 2014 and individual Olympic champion from 2018, who was considered a great talent early in his career, has had a difficult time: after the Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang, a difficult winter followed, and in the summer of 2019 a serious training crash: a cruciate ligament rupture.
Although Wellinger made his World Cup comeback almost a year and a half later, the fight back was long and exhausting. Again and again injuries, again and again the search for form. Until February 11, 2023: At the World Cup in Lake Placid, he surprisingly achieved his first victory since December 2017 – and now he has won the World Championships medal.