Ammann aims to again get jump on competition


PARK CITY, Utah - He can't come out of nowhere anymore.

Switzerland's Simon Ammann, who surprised the field Sunday in the 90-meter ski jumping event to snatch the gold, hopes his form holds today in the 120-meter competition.

Standing in his way are the same guys he beat before, but this time they know what they're up against. And there's another dark horse, who like Ammann wasn't on anyone's radar screen before competition.

Also taking his measure of the leaders is Alan "Airborne" Alborn, the 21-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska, who considers the large hill his best event. His qualifying jump yesterday would have been good enough for fourth place, and raised his hopes for a medal.

"My jumps just keep getting better and better," he said. "Personally, I want to be a medalist. I have the physical side of it and the mental attributes. I just need to put it together."

Alborn said he needs to be more aggressive today than on his jumps Sunday, when he finished 11th.

American Clint Jones, a 17-year-old from Colorado, finished 22nd.

Ammann jumped well yesterday but received low style marks from the judges. He shook his head in disgust after landing.

"It was not a good jump. I did not finish it. But I will prepare properly ... and it will be as far as before," he said.

Sixteen athletes did not make the cut, including Americans Brendan Doran and Tommy Schwall. Jumpers get 60 points for reaching the K-point, where the slope of the hill begins to flatten out. The skier gets 1.8 points added or deducted from that total for each meter beyond or short of that spot. Style points, up to 20 per judge, are added to the score. The highest and lowest of the five judges' scores are thrown out and the three others are added to the distance points.

Ammann is being stalked by the several veteran Olympians he ambushed Sunday and one rookie.

Sven Hannawald of Germany took the silver in the 90-meter and finished second in the 120-meter qualifier.

The "Polish Batman," Adam Malysz, prequalified for the 120-meter based on his World Cup record. The boyish Malysz won 11 World Cup events last season, including five in a row, and had seven to his credit this season. He won the bronze in the 90-meter.

No one seems to know what's wrong with the Austrian jumpers, especially the athletes themselves.

Martin Hoellwarth and Martin Koch, who both prequalified based on World Cup standings, jumped poorly and lacked style.

"It's a mind thing," said an exasperated Hoellwarth. "When you want it too much and you have to run after it, nothing works out, and this is our situation now."

There's also Robert Kranjec, perhaps the next Ammann. The World Cup rookie made the crowd roar with a jump of 122 meters and high style marks to finish first.

The Slovenian hairdresser is ranked 22nd on the World Cup circuit and his Olympic biography said he "suddenly appeared out of nowhere" during the 2001-2002 season.

Here we go again.

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