ROSA KHUTOR, Russia: Japanese teen sensation Sara Takanashi was left wondering what went wrong on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) as she failed to medal in the first ever women’s ski jumping event at Olympics.
The 17-year-old World Cup leader, who has dominated her sport in the past two years, had been the firm favorite to win but finished fourth in a shock result.
“Clearly there was something different tonight . . . I became uptight and I just wasn’t as sharp as I usually am,” said last season’s World Cup winner.
“I tried to think as I always do, but something went wrong. I have realized my mental weakness. You have to concentrate when it is needed, but I couldn’t. It means I need more exercise.”
With 10 wins in 13 World Cup races, the teenage star was everybody’s best bet for gold in this inaugural event for women’s ski jumping.
Having finished third after the first jump however, she was unable to make up the lost points and in the end, victory went to Germany’s Carina Vogt—second placed in the World Cup—followed by Austrian favorite Daniela Iraschko-Stolz and French jumper Coline Mattel.
Not just Takanashi, but many of her colleagues were surprised by her absence from the podium.
“It’s a crazy world the Olympics. It shows she is a human being, but I still think she is an amazing athlete,” said US jumper Sarah Hendrickson, who beat Takanashi to the world title last year but has been struggling to come back after a knee injury.
“I wish I could tell her she is still an amazing athlete and that she has many good years to come.”
For Mattel, Takanashi “has been practically unbeatable, she’s really strong, one of the best jumpers in the world.”
“It was a surprise. But in a one-day competition, at Olympics, it’s different. You don’t have the same thing happening in your head as with World Cup events that are every weekend.”
Silver-medalist Iraschko-Stolz, who like Takanashi had a poor first jump, was equally supportive.
“I was surprised and I feel sorry for her because she has been the best champion in the last two years and also the most consistent ski jumping girl and today she didn’t do her best jumps.
“It’s hard to get worse [than 4th place], I know the feeling,” said the 2011 world champion.
“But she’s so young and I think she will keep going on and fighting and in the future she will get her medal. I’m sure of that.”
Takanashi herself was already looking ahead.
“If I get a chance I want to come back to the Olympics a much more polished ski jumper,” said the teenager, who sportingly congratulated Tuesday’s winners.
“There is nothing I want to do except for ski jumping.
“The level of women’s ski jumping is constantly improving so I must do my best to keep up with it,” she vowed.