The celebrated world champion Timi Zajc kissed the snow to the atmospheric Planica song, the end of the German medal series was almost lost in the midst of the exuberant Slovenian ski jumping party.
"Mega scenery. That's how I thought it would be every day. Incredibly cool," said Karl Geiger after the World Championships individual on the large hill, in which he was eighth and Markus Eisenbichler in fifth place this time only playing supporting roles. In the midst of the insane volume level, Eisenbichler could hardly understand what he was saying, but it was enough for a declaration of war in the direction of the team competition: "I would like to defend the title. We have what it takes."
Pilot Zajc was far from thinking about the next day. "It's unbelievable. I made perfect jumps. Now I can say: I really love this hill. It was probably the best competition of my life," said the happy Slovenian, for whom thousands of fans roared one folk music hit after the other. There were scenes like in a soccer stadium. The stadium announcer yelled "Timi", the fans "Zajc". Pictures like these had been missing at the World Cup so far.
Horngacher "proud" of his team
Eisenbichler, Geiger and Andreas Wellinger (13th) were not good enough this time to challenge Zajc, silver winner Ryoyu Kobayashi from Japan and Poland's Dawid Kubacki. The anger was limited after a brilliant first week of the World Cup. "We were very close and jumped well. It was clear that it would be difficult. I'm proud of the lads, they did a great job. Everyone risked everything," said national coach Stefan Horngacher.
For the German team, such an outcome at a World Championships is unusual: In the sixth ski jumping competition of the Planica title fights, Germany remained without a medal for the first time, and for the first time since 2013, a World Championships large hill individual ended without a top three place.
Instead of being frustrated, the athletes are already looking to Saturday when the medals in the team competition will be awarded at 4.30 p.m. (ARD and Eurosport). "We're in a good position for the team competition. We have to get through without making a mistake," demanded Horngacher. He did not want to identify a clear favourite. In addition to Germany, the Slovenes around Zajc, the Poles and the solidly strong Austrians are also eligible for gold.
Thousands of enthusiastic fans create a great atmosphere
In contrast to the previous competitions, the mood in the Valley of the Schanzen was really lively. Instead of empty ranks and sadness, this time thousands of enthusiastic fans celebrated, there was a little Four Hills Tournament atmosphere with the smell of mulled wine and loud horns. Even a Lionel Messi fan came, he had a copy of the World Cup trophy with him.
The German team wanted to improve the record at the World Championships, which had been so impressive up until then, and to which the two cross-country relays suddenly also contributed medals. "It's nice for everyone. I could get used to it," said former world champion Sven Hannawald on ARD to the German cheerfulness.
It wasn't a "millimetre jump" (Horngacher) like on the normal hill, but there was still enough excitement in the changing winds. "We've already achieved more than we would have wished for. We've delivered incredibly well. What's still to come is topping," said Wellinger, who, with just 127.5 meters in the first round, was already clearly behind before the Competition.
Wellinger's stated goal ("We always want to win") became a Herculean task due to the tough competition. Geiger and Eisenbichler jumped very well, but still fell back a bit behind the top trio of Kobayashi, Zajc and Granerud. "We're still within striking distance," said Horngacher at half-time, looking ahead to the second half. With a medal it shouldn't be anything this time. "It was an unbelievably strong competition," admitted Geiger.