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Noriaki Kasai at a World Cup in Sapporo 2020

Photo: Jun Tsukida / AfloSport / IMAGO

Japan's ski jumping legend is making it to the big stage once again: Noriaki Kasai has been nominated for the World Cup this weekend in Sapporo. The 51-year-old had recently attracted attention with strong performances in the second-class Continental Cup as well as in national competitions and is part of Team Nippon in the jumping competitions in the 1972 Olympic city via the extended squad that the host is entitled to.

»I think everyone is waiting for me. And I want to live up to their expectations,” Kasai said. On Friday (8 a.m. CET) he has to pass the qualification in order to be able to make his 570th World Cup appearance the next day. »It will be such pressure for me, as if it were about winning. But I want to withstand the pressure," said the 1992 ski flying world champion, who failed in qualifying in Sapporo the previous year.

“I worked so hard every day on my stamina, mentally and on my weight,” said Kasai: “And it’s finally paying off again.” In January he won the Continental Cup, the second highest international competition category, in Sapporo , ninth and beat the German champion Martin Hamann. Last week he won the national TVH Cup ahead of Keiichi Sato, who was 14th in the Four Hills Tournament. 2020/21.

Kasai made his debut in the World Cup in December 1988 as a 16-year-old in parallel style in Sapporo with 31st place. At that time, Finnish legend Matti Nykänen won ahead of Dieter Thoma.

Kasai already holds the age record in the ski jumping World Cup: In January 2020, the 1992 ski flying world champion also competed in his 569th jump - also a world record - in the first league in Sapporo at the age of 47. He celebrated his last victory in 2014 at the age of 42 and his last time on the podium was in 2017 as a 44-year-old, both by far the oldest jumper in history.