With a historic win on the World Cup circuit this season, double Olympic champion Kamil Stoch is in peak form as he aims to defend his ski jumping titles at the Pyeongchang Games.
Stoch won his second straight Four Hills tournament in Bischofshofen, Austria, on Jan. 6 to become only the second ski jumper in the long history of the sport to win all four stages of the prestigious event.
Germany’s Sven Hannawald is the only other ski jumper to achieve the feat, winning all four stages 16 years ago. Stoch also won the Four Hills in 2017, when he was first in just one of the four stages.
The 30-year-old Pole won both the normal and large hill events at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, adding to his world title on the large hill a year before.
When Stoch won double gold in Sochi, he became just the third man to do so. Matti Nykanen of Finland won both golds in 1988. Switzerland’s Simon Ammann won two golds in 2002 and 2010.
MEDAL FAVORITES: Slovenia’s Peter Prevc won silver on the normal hill and bronze on the large hill in Sochi. While he has struggled this year on the World Cup circuit, he will be banking on experience that includes winning the 2016 World Cup and the 2016 Four Hills.
Germany’s Richard Freitag has three World Cup wins so far this season, but fell during the Innsbruck stop of the Four Hills and suffered a hip injury that could jeopardize his Olympic medal hopes.
Andreas Wellinger of Germany has been on the podium five times this season and will also be a strong medal contender.
BEST RIVALRY: Germany edged out Austria in the team event four years ago and the two ski jumping rivals should provide some fireworks again this year along with powerhouse Norway.
The ski jumping competition will take place at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre, which is located in the Pyeongchang Mountain Cluster.
RISING STARS: Daniel Andre Tande. The 23-year-old has three World Cup wins overall and has performed well this season with three podium finishes. The Norwegian finished second at the Innsbruck stage of the Four Hills and could be set for a breakthrough in Pyeongchang.
POTENTIAL RECORD SETTERS: Another jumper to keep an eye on in Pyeongchang will be ageless wonder Noriaki Kasai. Known as “Legend Kasai” in his native Japan, the 45-year-old will be competing in his eighth consecutive Olympics.
Kasai would become the sole record-holder for most Winter Olympic appearances if he competes in Pyeongchang. He currently shares the record with Russian luger Albert Demchenko.
Kasai made his Olympic debut at the 1992 Albertville Games in France, and has appeared at every event since. He has earned three medals, including team silver at Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994, and silver for the large hill and team bronze at Sochi.
He is the oldest Olympic ski jumping medalist and the oldest ski jumping World Cup individual event winner.
Americans to watch
Sarah Hendrickson: The Salt Lake City, Utah, native is the lone member of the 2014 U.S. Olympic team still competing, clinching a spot with a victory at the U.S. team trials. Hendrickson, 23, the 2013 world champion, has gone through a series of surgeries since an August 2013 training crash, but remains one of the top contenders.
Michael Glasder: The Lake Forest, Ill., native qualified for his first Olympics after missing the cut in 2010 and 2014, claiming the men’s title at the U.S. Olympic trials with 270 points after two jumps. Glasder, 28, who began jumping at age 5, has cracked the top 20 in Continental Cup competition eight times in the past two seasons, including a win at Iron Mountain, Mich., in February 2016.