FILE UNDER -- Nordic

TORINO: Ski jump: Winds could play a role in Ahonen's medal quest

TORINO: Ski jump: Winds could play a role in Ahonen’s medal quest{mosimage}PRAGELATO, Italy – Who wins the gold medal in ski jumping at the Torino Olympics may come down to a question of which way the wind blows.

Several practice sessions for Sunday’s normal hill event were called off on Thursday because of high winds.

Friday’s practice went off uninterrupted but athletes and coaches were worried about the weather.

”It’s definitely a factor on this hill,” said Finland’s Janne Ahonen, a gold-medal favorite in ski jumping. ”Hopefully it will be OK on Sunday.”

Pragelato, venue for ski jumping, nordic combined and cross-country, sits in Val Chisone at an altitude of 1,528 meters (5,013 feet). The winds can pick up unexpectedly.

Ahonen will be competing in his last Olympics in a final shot at an individual medal, something he has yet to win.

He came away from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics with a silver medal in the team event, but fell short on the normal-hill and large-hill events.

Ahonen’s coach Tommi Nikunen hopes the wind won’t be a factor.

”I really hope he gets the medal,” said Nikunen. ”To win a gold medal on a hill like this is a combination of talent and luck. You need both and it would be sad if someone lost out on a medal because of the wind.”

Ahonen had jumps of 97, 101.5 and 103 meters in Friday’s practice. The only problem he had was an awkward landing on one of his jumps.

Japan’s Finnish coach Kari Ylianttila said the wind could be a huge factor.

”If you’re lucky, you get a good wind,” said Ylianttila. ”If you’re unlucky you get a bad wind and the difference could be five to eight meters.”

– The Associated Press

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