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First gold in Vancouver goes to Swiss ski jumper

Swiss ski jumper Simon Ammann raises his arms in triumph. (Clem Murray / Philadelphia Inquirer / MCT)
Swiss ski jumper Simon Ammann raises his arms in triumph. (Clem Murray / Philadelphia Inquirer / MCT) MCT

WHISTLER, British Columbia — It might have been the first podium ceremony of the Vancouver Games, but for ski jumping fans it sure looked familiar.

Two steps of the podium were reclaimed by a pair of jumpers who starred at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games only to miss out on medals in Turin in 2006.

Simon Ammann of Switzerland won his third career gold medal with a 108-meter final jump in the normal hill (the smaller of the two ski jump hills) and a score of 276.5 points. Silver went to Poland's Adam Malysz, his third Olympic medal. Gregor Schlierenzauer of Austria won bronze.

Ammann, 28, won gold in both jumping events in Salt Lake, but couldn't crack the top 10 in Turin. Malysz, 32, won bronze in the normal hill and silver in the large hill in Salt Lake but couldn't do better than seventh in Turin.

"It is unbelievable that eight years later I'm back here," German-speaking Ammann said through a translator.

Ammann was visibly overjoyed when he landed his jumped. He stopped short in the finish area and stood soaking in the cheers from fans. He then pointed toward the sky and pumped his fists before a coach ran to lift Ammann, still in his skis, off the ground with a hug.

"Now I'm back on top of the world," Ammann said.

Ammann said he would have been happy with fifth place. Instead he tied the record for career Olympic ski jumping golds set by Finland Matti Nykanen, who won one in '84 and two in '88.

"He has a fourth chance, but let's enjoy the day," Malysz said. "I think we are all happy we won medals today."

Rumors swirled in recent years that Malysz would retire before the games.

He's glad he did not.

"I'm happy that I won a medal again," Malysz said. He says he will likely retire after one more year.

A poor first jump cost Schlierenzauer silver and maybe even gold. He was seventh after the first jump but had the second longest jump in the finals at 106.5 meters.

"I'm very happy to win a bronze medal at my first Olympic games," Schlierenzauer said. "It is a dream."

Team USA qualified all three of its young jumpers for the medal event, although none advanced to the final round. The top 30 after Saturday morning's first jump advance to the second jump.

New York's Peter Frenette, 17, and New Hampshire's Nick Alexander, 21, tied for 41st. Utah's Anders Johnson, 20, finished 49th out of 50 jumpers.

"I'm one of the youngest to do it, so that's good, looking forward to my career," Frenette said in a statement released by the team. "It's just a starting point. Hopefully, (I'll) keep building from the Olympics and get better and hopefully be one of the best one day."

Ammann said North America needs more ski jump hills in order for the sport to grow in popularity.

"If you built a ski jump in Miami Beach, I would like to try that," Ammann said.

Hill reports for The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

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