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Olympics / Sports

Ski jumpers depending on good form, luck in Sochi

SOCHI, Russia--It might sound odd to hear one of the most successful ski jumpers in history talk about luck.

But, for all his accomplishments, Gregor Schlierenzauer has never been an individual Olympic champion and he knows that winning the men's normal hill event Sunday won't be easy.

"Gold medal is my goal," he said. "To win at the Olympic Games, you need not only good form but also luck."

Schlierenzauer figures to be pushed by the likes of Kamil Stoch of Poland, Austrian teammate Thomas Diethart and Simon Ammann of Switzerland.

There is also another talented Austrian, Michael Hayboeck, who finished atop Saturday's qualification round at RusSki Gorki Jumping Center.

"I'll do the same as I did now, nothing different, and hope for a medal," Hayboeck said. "I'm self-confident now so it should be OK."

While the men compete for their sport's first set of medals Sunday, much of the spotlight at these Games will be on the women, who do not go until Tuesday.

Sochi marks the first time they have been invited to the big stage. The journey required years of pleading and proving themselves to international sports officials.

"It hasn't sunk in yet with me that this is the Olympic Games," said Sarah Hendrickson, the U.S. team's teenage phenom. "And it probably won't until we start jump training."

The American and another teenager, Sara Takanashi of Japan, are the two stars in their sport, though Hendrickson barely made it back for the Games after a serious knee injury last summer.

Lindsey Van, a U.S. veteran who led the fight for women's equality, is happy with the venue.

"Most beautiful and big mountains I've ever seen," she said. "The jumps look good--plenty of snow on them."

In the men's normal hill final, Ammann will try for a record fifth gold medal.

The field will also include Thomas Morgenstern, who has won gold at each of the last two Winter Games. His participation was in doubt after he crashed hard in Austria last month, suffering skull and lung injuries.

"We are really glad that he can compete in the Olympics," said Austrian Coach Alexander Pointner.

After the women compete on the normal hill, the men will jump from the large hill Friday and Saturday. The men's team event is scheduled for Feb. 17.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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