Janne Ahonen wins large-hill jumping world championship

Janne Ahonen wins large-hill jumping world championship{mosimage}OBERSTDORF, Germany – World Cup leader Janne Ahonen of Finland won the large-hill ski jump Friday for the fifth gold medal of his career at the world championships.

Ahonen, third in last week’s event on the normal hill at the Nordic worlds, made two near-perfect jumps of more than 141 meters to win with 313.2 points. Norway’s Roar Ljoekelsoey won the silver (3-7.2) and the Czech Republic’s Jakub Janda won the bronze (304.2).

“I’m so happy I can hardly describe it,” Ahonen said. “It may be that I now belong among the best jumpers in the world.”

It was his ninth career world championship medal in individual and team events. Ahonen had won 11 of 13 World Cup meets this season before being stymied by the flu. He competed in only four of the last seven World Cup events, winning one of them to bring his tally to a record 12 in a season. Ahonen returned to the slopes only a week before the championships.

Defending champion Adam Malysz of Poland, third after the opening round, finished 11th.

Earlier, Norway swept the men’s and women’s inaugural team sprint titles for its fifth gold medal at these worlds, more than double that of any other nation.

Tore Ruud Hofstad and Tor Anre Hetland won the gold in the men’s 7.2-kilometer freestyle race, and Hilde Pedersen and Marit Bjoergen captured the women’s 5.4-kilometer event. Both races were run for the first time at a world championship, though they were previously tested in World Cup competition.

Ahonen led after opening with a beautiful 141.5-meter jump. He then claimed the title by soaring 142.5 and concluding with an immaculate landing.

Finland, expected to reap several golds, has only two other medals at these worlds _ Ahonen’s bronze from the normal hill and the women’s silver from the team sprint.

Hofstad and Hetland each completed three runs to cruise to victory in 14 minutes, 8.6 seconds. Germans Jens Filbrich and Axel Teichmann won the silver, 3.8 seconds back. Czechs Dusan Kozisek, the youngest medalist at the championships at 21, and Martin Koukal won the bronze, 4.8 behind.

Leading nearly from the start, Norway began with an easy pace but broke away in the third lap. The pair built an insurmountable gap and entered the final leg with an eight-second advantage.

“With an eight-second lead in the final lap, maybe even my mother could have become world champion in this case,” Hetland said.

Pedersen and Bjoergen triumphed in 12:19.7 on the fast and technical sprint loop, followed 2.8 seconds later by Finland’s Riitta Liisa Lassila and Pirjo Manninen.

Bjoergen, the runaway World Cup leader, rebounded from her performance in the individual sprint Tuesday, when she failed to qualify.

“Today I wanted revenge by taking a medal,” Bjoergen said. “In the last climbing, I attacked. The Russian and the Finn had no answer. It was great.”

Lassila said the silver medal left her with a “great feeling.”

“Last year I was pregnant and had a baby,” she said. “I never thought I’d be here today with a medal.”

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