Women ski jumpers return to hill on Olympic debut

Associated Press
Austria's Daniela Iraschko-Stolz soars through the air during a women's ski jumping training session at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria is taking a pragmatic approach to a possible podium finish in the first-ever women's ski jumping event at the Winter Olympics, despite an impressive opening day of training.

Iraschko-Stolz finished first in two training runs and was second in the other on the Olympic normal hill on Saturday, relegating gold medal favorite Sara Takanashi to second twice.

"To win a medal is really hard," Iraschko-Stolz said. "We have only one competition, two jumps, so we have to be really strong in head and in legs. Everything is possible, it's the Olympics."

The women will be back on the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center hill again on Sunday and Monday for official training ahead of the Tuesday night final that will give a woman an Olympic gold medal 90 years after a male ski jumper first received one.

The International Olympic Committee finally agreed in 2011 to add a solitary women's event to the Sochi program, ending more than a decade of lobbying and an unsuccessful court case by women jumpers ahead of the Vancouver Olympics.

Takanashi, who finished first in the opening training run Saturday, is a strong gold medal favorite after winning 10 World Cup events this season. But Iraschko-Stolz's performance indicated Takanashi, a 17-year-old high school student, won't have it all her own way.

The Austrian jumper nearly fell after landing in the second round Saturday, scraping her hands along the icy snow as she attempts to regain her balance.

Sarah Hendrickson of Park City, Utah, last season's World Cup champion, will be looking to improve, fighting through pain following right knee surgery in August. Hendrickson, of Park City, Utah, made two jumps and finished last and next-to-last.

"It's the best it can be in this situation," she said. "It's still definitely giving me some pain and obviously limiting the amount of jumps I can do."

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