Austria’s Gregor Schlierenzauer wins again at
Planica Ski Flying Finals By Peter Q. Graves
By any standard, the ski flying hill in Planica takes your breath away. It’s a yearly ritual
for the daring jumpers of the world to converge here every March. As Austrian flyer Gregor
Schlierenzauer says, “It’s always a special feeling here; although it’s hard to jump on a hill
like this at the end of the season, I look forward to the days here.”
Planica is an alpine valley in northwestern Slovenia, not far from Kranjska Gora. It’s one
of the world’s foremost ski jumping and ski flying venues, and it’s a tradition that has been
carried on since 1903.
As they did at the World Nordic Championships earlier this season in Oslo, the Austrian
jumpers continued to take the spotlight on Day 1. They put three jumpers on the podium.
No one was surprised.
Schlierenzauer took the first win of the weekend with jumps of 219 and 226 meters, dem-
onstrating again he is at the height of his powers. His teammate Thomas Morgenstern was
second after grabbing the lead in the first ride. Big hill specialist Martin Koch was third.
Finland’s Matti Hautamaeki just missed the podium to finish fourth.
Local Slovenian hero Robert Kranjec looked poised to be in podium contention after the
first round where he was fourth, but a nasty tumble left him in 15th.
Planica marked the last career jumps for Polish icon Adam Malysz, who was on the brink
of closing out a remarkable career and finished eighth on Day 1.
Day 2 saw the Austrian jumpers dominate again by winning the team competition in front
of more than 21,000 fans. Jumpers Morgenstern, Koch, Schlierenzauer and Andreas Ko-
fler bested Norway by more than 130 points. It was a particularly sweet day for the host
nation as Slovenia took a solid third.
On the final day at Planica, the winner was Poland’s Kamil Stoch, as if to signal that Polish ski jumping will flourish in the post-Malysz era. Completing only one round due to high
winds and gusts — which can make a ski-flying hill particularly dangerous — Stoch won
with a jump of 215.5 meters. The crowd went wild when Slovenian star Kranjec had the
longest jump of the day with 224.5 and finished second.
“This victory is as important as all the others,” said a gracious Stoch. “Every victory makes
me happy because I work hard for it. Adam will be in the hearts of the Polish fans forever;
there will never be a new Adam. I am Kamil Stoch and I just want to be myself.”
Then Malysz landed a jump that would place him a remarkable third. It was his 92nd
career podium. As the crowd began cheering and singing wildly, he was amazingly composed. On his jumping skis, Malysz had written “thank you” in Finnish as a tribute to his
coach, Hannu Lepistoe, who was unable to travel to Planica for health reasons. Malysz,
known for his Ricky Ricardo pencil-thin mustache, was the subject of great affection as a
number of athletes, including Simon Ammann and Tom Hilde, had painted on their own
‘stache for the event.
Schlierenzauer was fourth and won the overall ski flying World Cup ahead of Koch.
Along with the jumpers retiring was trainer Mike Kojonkoski, who flagged his last jumpers
from Norway for the final time in his career.
Officials also announced that Planica will be a candidate for the FIS World Nordic Championships in 2017. But for now, this fabled hill, steeped in tradition, will be quite still until next
season when thousands of fans will return to create an energized atmosphere unlike any
other in the world — and why not? More than 60 world records have been set here.