Friday, February 10, 2006
Pragelato, Italy Americans Alan Alborn and Clint Jones jumped well enough Saturday to qualify for today's Olympic normal hill individual event in Pragelato, Italy.
A two-time Olympian, Alborn qualified 31st but actually tied for 16th among Saturday's jumpers, soaring 96.5 meters on the normal hill.
"I'm working on some really basic things right now, getting closer and closer all the time," said Alborn, who has trained in Steamboat Springs during his career. "It's really fundamental on the small hill. There's really no air pressure to fly on here, so it's all muscle memory, air awareness and speed sense."
Jones, who also jumped at the 2002 Olympics, qualified 49th with a jump of 91 meters. He was 35th among Saturday's competitors.
"That tailwind's a little funky to get used to," said Jones. "It wasn't as good a jump as I would have liked. Every jump I've taken, the conditions have been different, with the wind going different directions. This is the only event we ski all year on the small hill (normal hill), so it's tough."
In jumping, an athlete is awarded points for distance and style (flight and landing). Points also can be deducted based on those factors. Five judges score each jump, with the highest and lowest scores disregarded. The remaining scores are aggregated and added to the jumper's distance points.
Norway's Lars Bystoel was the leader in qualifying but was eliminated Saturday for violating suit regulations, putting Switzerland's Andreas Kuettel and Austria's Andreas Kofler at the head of the field for Sunday's final. Both soared past 103 meters.
A total of 50 competitors will jump in Sunday's finals, including 15 athletes who were pre-qualified. Steamboat's Tommy Schwall just missed making it to Sunday, finishing 52nd with a jump of 90.5 meters.
Olympic rookie Jim Denney of Duluth, Minn., posted a jump of 86 meters and finished 46th.
Following Sunday's first jump, the field will be cut to 30 for a second and final jump.
"I'm going to jump harder, more coordinated and see where it puts me," said Alborn. "I'm looking for two good jumps. Sometimes you have one really good one and you think about it and the next one isn't so good. What you need to do to get a medal is to be consistent."
Finland's Janne Ahonen had Saturday's longest jump of 104.5 meters and was third with 133.5 points. Defending double Olympic champion Simon Ammann of Switzerland overcame a fall in a trial earlier Saturday and qualified with a jump of 92 meters.
Meanwhile, Japanese veteran Masahiko Harada was disqualified from the normal hill competition for having skis that were too long for his weight. Harada said he weighed 7 ounces less than he should have.
Two other jumpers were disqualified for problems with their suits -- Nikolay Karpenko of Kazakhstan and Sigurd Pettersen of Norway.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report