Takanashi braces for historic triumph

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Sara Takanashi executes a jump during training at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics. AFP PHOTO

Sara Takanashi executes a jump during training at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics. AFP PHOTO

SOCHI, Russia: Japanese teenager Sara Takanashi hopes to become the first Olympic Games women’s ski jumping champion on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) as a grueling 10-year battle for the sport’s recognition reaches a golden conclusion.

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The 17-year-old World Cup champion has dominated this season to with 10 out of 13 wins.

“I have already decided everything tactically and I’m going to stick to it,” said Takanashi.

“I would like to have more time to adjust to the hill because there are none like this in Japan.”

In training so far in Sochi at the RusSki Gorki normal hill, the youngster has been been pushed in to the shade by 30-year-old veteran Daniela Iraschko-Stolz.

The Austrian has won four of the six practice jumps and has also been in demand by the media.

She is an openly gay athlete who got married last autumn.

But should she win on Tuesday, she is adamant that she will not use the podium to protest Russia’s controversial stance on gay rights.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to make protests here, no one cares,” said the 30-year-old, who added her partner’s name—Stolz —to hers upon marriage.

“To jump pretty good is also a statement.”

“I’m together with my partner now and don’t have any problems, not in Russia or with the Austrian federation. Ten years ago it was different,” she recalled.

“I know Russia will go and make the right steps in the future and we should give them time.”

Reigning world champion Sarah Hendrickson has continued to struggle in Sochi, finishing 27th and 23rd out of 30 jumpers in her two attempts in training.

The US teenager has been touted as a potential medal contender but is still fighting back after a knee operation five months ago.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, American snowboard star Shaun White, who pulled out of the slopestyle event, looks for a third successive gold in the halfpipe.

Norway’s Marit Bjoergen targets her second gold medal of these Games.

After taking the skiathlon on Saturday, she competes in the sprint freestyle.

Bjoergen has eight Olympic medals, four of them gold.

In the men’s sprint, Nikita Kriukov of Russia looks to defend his 2010 title although the sprint four years ago was competed in the classic style.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Lee Sang-hwa defends her 500m speedskating title while golds are also up for grabs in women’s freestyle skiing slopestyle, women’s singles luge and women’s biathlon 10-kilometer pursuit.

AFP

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