Wed, Feb 21, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Japan ski jump legend Kasai eyes Beijing at 49

AFP, PYEONGCHANG, South Korea

Noriaki Kasai competes in the men’s large hill team ski jumping trial round during the Winter Olympics on Monday in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Photo: AFP

Japan ski jump legend Noriaki Kasai, who appeared in a record eighth Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, has promised to compete and win a medal at Beijing 2022 — at the age of 49.

A defiant Kasai insisted he had no plans to quit the daredevil sport after a hugely disappointing Games, where he never threatened to contend for a medal.

The 45-year-old flickered briefly in Monday’s team competition with jumps of 124m and 125m, but Japan finished well back of winners Norway in sixth.

“It was nice to be able to set a record of eight appearances,” Kasai told reporters. “I’m not saying I want to be there, I’m saying I definitely will compete in Beijing. I was able to jump in front of my family here — next time I will win a medal in front of them.”

Kasai, who made his Olympic debut at Albertville in 1992, collected a team silver at Lillehammer in 1994.

After reaching his 40s, Kasai bagged large hill silver and team bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games, making him the sport’s oldest Olympic medalist.

“I’m upset at not getting a medal, but I can take a lot away from these Games. It’s also given me that incentive to make sure I medal in Beijing four years from now,” he said. “I only showed roughly half of what I’m capable of. The other half I will show in four years.”

Kasai is something of a cult hero in nations that embrace a sport where hardy competitors launch themselves off the side of a mountain and fly at 90kph.

In ski jump-obsessed Finland, Helsinki punk band Van Dammes recorded a tribute single called Mr Noriaki Kasai in 2014, while Polish rapper Koldi has also penned a song about the Japanese veteran.

Kasai, Japan’s flag-bearer at the Games, displayed some rare emotion during the large hill competition, where he failed to advance to the final round.

Trudging away from the landing zone swearing to himself, Kasai blanked scores of Japanese media braving sub-zero temperatures, fuming: “Son of a bitch!”

Germany’s Andreas Wellinger won the normal hill in Pyeongchang before Poland’s Kamil Stoch retained his Olympic large hill crown. Kasai, who has 17 individual World Cup victories, promised to return stronger in Beijing.

“I’ll be back for sure,” Kasai said. “I can still jump farther. I would like to aim for 10 Olympic Games eventually. I’m not done yet.”

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