A visibly disappointed Andreas Wellinger found consolation from Sven Hannawald after missing out on a ski jumping triumph. The overall runner-up and Germany’s last Four Hills Tournament winner stood together for a long time in the swirl of flakes in Bischofshofen on Saturday and worked through the defeat against Japan’s high-flyer Ryoyu Kobayashi. Hannawald sincerely congratulated Wellinger and thanked him for “a sensational tour.”
But the dejected Olympic champion’s expression remained marked. “I’m actually a bit torn,” said the 28-year-old Bavarian. He is “basically proud” of his ten days on tour. But the pictures from the run-out of the Paul-Außerleitner-Schanze still hurt Wellinger. It wasn’t he who experienced the longed-for career crowning at the event around the turn of the year to the sounds of “Oh, how beautiful that is.”
Kobayashi celebrated the title for the third time, receiving the golden eagle from predecessor Halvor Egner Granerud from Norway. “It just wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t make many mistakes, but that’s enough,” said the depressed Wellinger. 22 years after Hannawald’s quadruple victory in January 2002, the German wait for an overall tour victory continues for at least a year. National coach Stefan Horngacher still saw the positive.
“I’m very, very happy with Andi. He can be really proud of what he’s done. He put on an amazing show and a super performance. I’m proud of him,” said the head coach on ARD. In the end, Kobayashi clearly won the duel. Second place on the day was enough for him behind Austria’s Stefan Kraft, who came third overall behind Kobayashi and Wellinger. “In summary: You have to admit without envy that Ryoyu is a damn good ski jumper and did it best,” said Wellinger about Kobayashi.
Wellinger congratulates the big winner Kobayashi
When explicitly asked, he said he would celebrate “a little bit”. Kobayashi was the first ski jumper since Finn Janne Ahonen 25 years ago to win the overall ranking without winning the day. The Japanese came second at all four stations. The Slovenian Anze Lanisek came third in Bischofshofen. Kobayashi and Wellinger, who was fifth on the day, fought a thrilling duel at the highest level over ten days, in which the Japanese improved from station to station.
Wellinger’s second place overall will now feel different than in 2018, when he was almost 70 points behind winner Kamil Stoch from Poland. “Second place is worth more because the quality was higher than in 2018. This time I managed to perform away from Oberstdorf,” said Wellinger.
This time the first German title since 2002 actually appeared tangible until the final day. Kobayashi joined Stoch and the former GDR jumper Helmut Recknagel with the third title. Only five-time winner Ahonen and Jens Weißflog (four) have more titles than specialist Kobayashi, who the stadium announcer aptly described as “Mister Four Hills Tournament”. Germany’s hopefuls brought numerous companions with them to the Paul Ausserleitner ski jump, where the young Wellinger had jumped as a schoolboy.
Father, sister, brother-in-law, friend and family were at the jump – and also the mother, who was visibly suffering with her son. “It’s really horrible when you can’t help at all. That’s really messed up,” said Claudia Wellinger, who was waiting in the snow-covered run. From there it was difficult to see the long, flat inrun and the take-off table. “We hope that there will be the same amount of snow or rain or whatever it is,” top jumper Wellinger said about the conditions before the competition.
The track had to be cleared of snow with leaf blowers between athletes. Even before the arena opened three and a half hours before the competition, a queue around 200 meters long formed at the entrance. Many fans wanted to secure the best seats as early as possible. Others preferred to get in the mood with beer and deafening party music from huge speakers in the town center. Nobody let the cold, wet winter weather with light snowfall spoil their mood.
Among the 14,300 spectators, more German than Austrian flags could be seen. That was primarily due to Wellinger, after all Karl Geiger and Pius Paschke, other hopefuls, had long since left the race for the title. Even football coach Jürgen Klopp sent greetings from Liverpool to the German hopeful on the hill: “We keep our fingers crossed for you and believe very, very firmly in the great opportunity.”
Wellinger put in a solid lead in the first round, but rocked his head back and forth rather dissatisfied in the run-out. Around 20 minutes and many snowflakes later, Kobayashi countered impressively and with the best distance of the first round. Completing his third title was just a formality for the Japanese in the second round given his 19-point lead. “I did exactly what I set out to do. I wanted to put in a good performance,” said Kobayashi.