Thu, Jan 08, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Loitzl ends his Austrian title drought in Four Hills

AFP , BISCHOFSHOFEN, AUSTRIA

Japan’s Noriaki Kasai takes his final jump of the Four Hills FIS ski jumping championship in Bischofshofen, Austria, on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AFP

Austrian Wolfgang Loitzl won the overall Four Hills ski jump title on Tuesday after capturing the fourth and final event to give his homeland its first title in nine years.

The 28-year-old made it three wins on the trot, his second stage success at Garmisch-­Partenkirchen in southern Germany on New Year’s day having started off his rollercoaster ride.

That win, his first major success after several near misses, was followed by another in Innsbruck last Sunday.

In Tuesday’s final showdown, Loitzl, who had placed second in the opening jump at Oberstdorf, again showed his class in outleaping Swiss World Cup leader Simon Ammann — who won the first leg of the tournament — and Austria’s Gregor Schlierenzauer.

Loitzl, who turns 29 next week, bagged 1123.1 points to see off Ammann — who has managed five circuit wins this winter already but could only manage 1091.1 in the Four Hills — and Schlierenzauer (1077.1 points).

Had it not been for Ammann edging him out in Oberstdorf, father-of-two Loitzl would have emulated the 2002 exploit of German Sven Hannawald, the only man to pull off a Four Hills grand slam to date.

He joined Sepp Bradl (1953), Willi Puerstl (1975), Hubert Neuper (1980, 1981), Ernst Vettori (1985, 1986), Andreas Goldberger (1993, 1995) and Andreas Widhoelzl (2000) in winning the crown for Austria.

Going into the final contest wih a 16-point lead — worth around 8.5m — former junior world champion Loitzl stunned his rivals with a 142.5m opening jump, taking five maximum 20 style points from the judges for good measure.

A second effort of 141.5m was enough to shut out Ammann and Russia’s Dimitry Vassiliev.

Prior to his run of success in recent days, Loitzl had previously garnered four world titles — but they were at team level — in 2001, 2005 and 2007.

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