Andreas Wellinger also mastered the infamous Bergisel and kept hopes alive of Germany's first Four Hills Tournament victory since Sven Hannawald in 2002. The 28-year-old narrowly lost his overall lead on Wednesday to the Japanese Ryoyu Kobayashi. With the equivalent of only around 2.5 meters behind, he has the best chance of a really big triumph in the grand finale in Bischofshofen on Saturday. Wellinger and Kobayashi will most likely fight for the Golden Eagle between themselves.
“I am really extremely satisfied with my jumping performance,” said Wellinger on ZDF. Local hero Jan Hörl secured victory at the first Austrian stop of the ski jump spectacle.
But Kobayashi and Wellinger are more consistent. The Bavarian, who has a wide range of sporting interests, likes to travel and swaps his jump skis for a surfboard on vacation, won at the start in Oberstdorf. He narrowly defended his top position with third place in the New Year's competition in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
His 15th place in qualifying for the third stage of the tour on Tuesday was a small setback. The test run didn't go well for Wellinger either. But he didn't let it show in the competition. When Wellinger warmed up under the jump shortly before the start, he already seemed completely in the tunnel. "If you've known him for a long time, you know exactly that he was born for situations like this," said Stephan Leyhe about the pressure on his roommate.
"Welli Fliag" was written on a black, red and gold flag with an eagle that was hung on the fence at the 130 meter mark. After his first jump of 132 meters, the numerous German fans sang “Oh, how beautiful that is”.
National coach Stefan Horngacher wasn't quite as enthusiastic, but he was also satisfied. "The jump was okay. It wasn't quite perfect, but good," said the 54-year-old. "He's totally into it. That's fine."
In the second round, Wellinger followed up with an attempt at 126.5 meters. "We knew it would be a bit of a wind lottery. I wasn't the luckiest in the second," he said.
In glorious sunshine, 21,000 spectators celebrated a big ski jumping party in the stadium bowl on the mountain above Innsbruck's city center. La Ola spilled over the stands, a DJ warmed up the audience with party hits from Abba and the Höhner. The atmosphere in the arena with a view of the snow-covered Nordkette was nowhere near this good. The fans didn't let their mood be dampened by a break of several minutes due to difficult conditions.
The Bergisel was previously considered the Germans' doomed redoubt. In recent years, Richard Freitag, Karl Geiger and Markus Eisenbichler, among others, have lost their tour chances on the facility, which is susceptible to wind due to its exposed location. That didn't happen to Wellinger.
However, his competitor Kobayashi, who jumped to second place on Wednesday, is an absolute tour professional. The 27-year-old already secured overall victory in 2019 and 2022. In his first success, as before, only Hannawald and the Pole Kamil Stoch won all four competitions.
Behind Wellinger, Leyhe from the German team also jumped into the top 30 athletes in 18th place, Philipp Raimund in 20th place and Geiger in 26th place. Pius Paschke, on the other hand, was surprisingly eliminated after the first round.
After a day of rest, the jumpers will continue with the qualification in Bischofshofen on Friday (4.30 p.m./ARD and Eurosport). The decisive competition traditionally takes place on Epiphany. “I really like Bischofshofen. I hope that the conditions will be good again and then two and a half meters will be nothing on the big hill,” said Wellinger.