Battered but brave after bad fall

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UPDATED: Norwegian ski jumping star Tom Hilde put a brave but badly bruised face on his spectacular fall during the annual New Year’s week of competition in the alps. He blamed himself, managed to smile and joke and was in amazingly good shape despite being told his season was over.

Norwegian ski jumper Tom Hilde had been in top place when he took a bad fall at Oberstdorf on Friday. The 24-year-old was quickly back on his feet, though, and ready to talk to NRK on Sunday. PHOTO: NRK/Views and News

“I’ll just have to use the time I have to make a comeback, or prepare for next season,” Hilde told reporters after being released from the hospital in Immenstadt, not far from where he fell on the big jump at Oberstdorf.

As it turns out, Hilde’s injuries may heal quickly enough that he can take part in the ski-flying world championships at Vikersund in late February.

Hilde, age 24, clearly hasn’t been scared off from the sport despite falling in front of 20,000 spectators at an estimated speed of 100 kilometers an hour, after jumping 131.5 meters.

See video of the fall here (external link, in Norwegian, on state broadcaster NRK’s website).

“It was my own fault,” he claimed. “I’ve been on skis since I was four years old and have enough experience. It was incredibly clumsy of me.”

Hilde was mostly disappointed that he had to travel home on Monday for more X-rays and medical treatment in Oslo, thereby missing Wednesday’s jumping in Innsbruck and Friday’s in Bischolfshofen.

He didn’t miss a traditional New Year’s Eve dinner in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, though, and fellow Norwegian jumper Anders Bardal used Hilde’s gloves during competition on Sunday. It didn’t seem to help much, with Bardal ending as the best Norwegian in ninth place. Bardal and the rest of the Norwegian team landed completely in the shadow of Gregor Schlierenzauer of Austria, who won his third victory in the string of New Year competition that the Norwegians call “Hoppuka.”

Hilde said he thinks his teammates were more worried about him than he was himself. “I had, of course, my own thoughts when I first got the message I couldn’t move because my back was broken,” Hilde said. “But then I got the good news that I didn’t need an operation.” Follow-up examinations indicated his injuries weren’t as bad as first believed.

He was in good humour when interviewed on national TV for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). And he was still counting on Bardal to win the series. Coach Clas Brede Bråthen was just happy to have Hilde back on his feet.

“By showing up for the dinner, it just shows what a good teammate he is,” Bråthen told news bureau NTB. “The other jumpers were really glad he was there.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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