“It’s really crazy what Noriaki does”: Legend Kasai makes the impossible really possible

“It’s really crazy what Noriaki does”
Legend Kasai truly makes the impossible possible

More than 35 years ago, Noriaki Kasai first appeared in the ski jumping World Cup. The Japanese celebrates great success, becomes a legend in his sport – and has now made it back to the top after a tough fight. It’s a crazy story.

Noriaki Kasai was in demand after his leap into the history books. Exactly 24 journalists peppered the ski jumping oldie with questions from all sides, although the Japanese had “only” achieved 45th place in the qualification for the World Cup in Sapporo. But that was exactly enough to pulverize several records. “I’m glad I made it. But I can do more,” said Kasai, as usual self-critically, after his flight to 106.0 meters. But the distance was enough on Saturday (8 a.m. CET/Eurosport) to compete in the 570th World Cup competition of his career at the age of 51. Both numbers are records that only Kasai himself can improve in the future.

The ski jumping world can only take its hat off. “It’s really crazy what Noriaki is doing,” said former national coach Werner Schuster on the Eurosport microphone and added with a smile: “I really had to laugh. I jumped against him myself, and he just jumped against mine Son jumped in the Continental Cup. He jumps across generations.”

“It’s finally paying off”

Kasai had narrowly failed twice in qualifying last year in Sapporo, finishing 51st and 55th. Now he has shown himself to be in better form and is taking part in a World Cup competition for the first time since February 2020. In the only training round he even took 23rd place with 125.0 meters. “I think he was more nervous than in his World Cup debut,” said Schuster. Kasai made his debut in December 1988 – still in the parallel style.

36 years later, the “pterosaur” is still there – and how. “I worked so hard every day on my stamina, in my mental area and on my weight,” says the 1992 ski flying world champion, who competed in Sapporo as he so often did with a golden helmet: “It’s finally paying off again.”

In fact: In January he came ninth in the Continental Cup, the second highest international competition category, in Sapporo, beating German champion Martin Hamann. The reward was a place in the national group at the World Cup in Sapporo – an opportunity that Kasai now took advantage of. “It will be such a pressure for me, as if it were about winning. But I want to withstand the pressure,” Kasai had said before jumping: “Because everyone is waiting for me, and I don’t want to disappoint them .”

And who knows, maybe Kasai can even establish himself in the World Cup permanently. Five jumpers recently made up the Japanese team led by Ryoyu Kobayashi, which also included Taku Takeuchi. Takeuchi only finished 52nd in qualifying and will not be taking part in the first of two competitions on Saturday. If Kasai is convincing in Sapporo, he could be there ski flying in Oberstdorf a week later. He once came third on the Heini-Klopfer ski jump. That was in February 2004, exactly 20 years ago.

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