Premature demolition on the hill, risk game for the athletes and a tough test for the 10,000 or so fans waiting in the cold: Bad weather and strong winds shaped the first day of competition at the Ski Jumping World Cup in Willingen. The German mixed team with Selina Freitag, Karl Geiger, Katharina Althaus and Andreas Wellinger took third place behind the victorious Norwegian team and Austria at the start in Sauerland.
The jumping, which was like a lottery and ended prematurely after one round, was not meaningful in terms of sport. A 161.5 meter jump including a fall by the Slovenian Timi Zajc was the highlight of a partly inglorious spectacle on the well-known Mühlenkopfschanze.
Freitag, Geiger, Althaus and Wellinger showed decent performances, which gave hope for further successes on Saturday and Sunday. The Norwegians led by Halvor Egner Granerud, who ended up being more than 40 points ahead of the German quartet, and Austria were too strong in the second mixed of the season.
“A bit windy, but I can deal with that,” Geiger called out to the spectators at the stadium microphone. 32 jumps lasted more than 85 minutes on Friday, so a second round took care of itself. “If we jump like that, we can of course make it onto the podium,” said national coach Stefan Horngacher about the team’s performance.
In wind and rain, the opening competition was a real test of patience. “The wind changes very quickly,” race director Sandro Pertile described the problem on “ARD”. Sometimes it seemed almost calm in the outlet, then gusts blew up the slope again. The Japanese Yuki Ito also noticed that, who sailed to 154.5 meters in a massive updraft and could not stand the furious flight. Ito lost her glasses in the fall, but didn’t appear to have sustained any further injuries. The distances of otherwise equal athletes suddenly differed by up to 60 meters.
It only became a little more stable after half an hour – but only for a short time. Returnee Geiger climbed 140 meters and showed below how much the updraft had carried him up the slope. “It’s damn difficult to jump here,” said mixed specialist Geiger. That was how his teammate Freitag saw it: “It was very difficult. It really knocked my skis off at the top.” The competition resembled a game of chance in parts, with race director Pertile flirting with a premature termination at half-time during the first round. Zajc flew wildly high and far. He fell like Ito, but immediately gave the all-clear in the outrun and was quickly back on his feet.
In just under three weeks, the German ski jumpers want to defend their mixed team title at the World Championships in Planica. In front of a home audience, the German team flew to World Cup gold for the fourth time in a row in 2021 in Oberstdorf. At the Olympic premiere of the format last year, Althaus was disqualified in Beijing because of an allegedly non-compliant jump suit.
Two individual competitions are scheduled for the home World Cup on Saturday and Sunday. Geiger, Wellinger and above all Althaus are among the candidates for a podium place again. For Saturday, the organizers reported a sold-out ski jumping arena in advance.