Norwegian athletes let down their local fans on home turf for the second week in a row on Sunday, when Norway’s ski jumping team failed to win a spot on the winners’ platform at the FIS Ski Flying World Championships at Vikersund. A silver medal in individual competition on Saturday was the best that team members could offer, even though they’d been favoured to win big.
Rune Velta from the Oslo suburb of Lommedalen, a newcomer on the international ski jumping stage, was the hero of the home team when he soared 234.5 meters in his first jump and 217.5 meters in his second attempt. That was good enough to claim the silver medal, behind Robert Kranjec of Slovenia but ahead of Martin Koch of Austria.
It was also enough bring tears of joy to both Velta and the new coach of the Norwegian men’s ski jumping team, Alexander Stöckl, who’s from Austria himself. “I could see already on his take-off in the finals that it would be a medal-winning jump,” Stöckl told newspaper Aftenposten. “I think that silver for him is almost worth more than gold.”
Velta, age 22, was one of two newcomers to the four-man team, along with 20-year-old Anders Fannemel, who now are predicted to have great careers ahead of them. Fannemel had flown 244.5 meters on his first jump, just behind the world record set by another Norwegian Johan Remen Evensen at 246.5 meters.
Fannemel didn’t do so well on his second jump, though, landing at 179.5 meters and ending up in 13th place. Norway’s favourite for the gold medal, Anders Bardal, wound up in seventh place and Bjørn Einar Romøren was 29th.
So Velta was widely credited with saving Norway’s honor on Saturday, not least after an earlier long flight of 234 meters on Friday literally was blown away by strong winds that cancelled the evening’s competition. Velta also did well on Sunday, but couldn’t save relatively poor performances by his teammates Bardal, Romøren and Fannemel.
The Norwegian team ended in fourth place, behind the winning team from Austria that claimed gold, Germany in second place and Slovenia in third.
Around 25,000 spectators made their way to Vikersund on Saturday and Sunday’s team competition finals took place under sunshine, blue skies and none of the strong winds that spoiled things on Friday. Given Velta’s surprising silver, commentators were claiming that a new Norwegian star had been born, and that Stöckl can bring Norway back up to the top of the international leagues.
“The key is to just keep working hard,” Norwegian sports chief Clas Brede Bråthen told Aftenposten, claming confidence in the ski jumpers’ chances. “We all know that’s what works over time. Success isn’t something you have, but something you come to deserve.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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