Full offensive on the Austrians’ redoubt

On paper, the fight for the Golden Eagle at the 72nd Four Hills Tournament will be a duel between the leading Japanese Ryoyu Kobayashi before the final in Bischofshofen on Saturday (4:30 p.m., ORF 1), who has already won this event twice (Grand Slam 2018/19, 2021/22), and the German challenger Andreas Wellinger, who is 4.8 points behind.

Behind them follows a very strong red-white-red flying squadron – but at a respectful distance. It would be a miracle if Bergisel champion Jan Hörl could make up for 23.6 points – that’s the equivalent of 13 meters. But the local hero leaves no stone unturned. “It’s a lot, but the tour has its own rules. A lot can happen, I’m not writing it off yet,” emphasized the 25-year-old.

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Bergisel winner Hörl was more confident on the hill than in front of the microphone

Knowing full well that the Paul-Außerleitner-Schanze in Pongau is like no other tour destination for the Austrians. There have been 24 victories here since 1954. It started with the legendary “Buwi” Bradl, greats like Baldur Preiml (1964), Karl Schnabl (1975), Toni Innauer (1976), Hubert Neuper (1982), Ernst Vettori (1986), Andreas Felder (1991), Andreas Goldberger (1993, 1995), the current ÖSV head coach Andreas Widhölzl (1999, 2000), Gregor Schlierenzauer (2007, 2013), Thomas Morgenstern (2010, 2012) or Theninger Michael Hayböck (2015.) who is fifth in the current tour ) also drove on the road of the winners.

Why not Hörl or Stefan Kraft, the next “local hero”, who started as the big favorite in Oberstdorf and is now lying in wait as a disappointed fourth overall? 33.8 points on Kobayashi are too much of a good thing. “The tour is over, Innsbruck was the preliminary decision, Bergisel didn’t mean well for me,” said the 30-year-old World Cup leader, referring to the wind lottery that had ended against him.

Full offensive on the Austrians' redoubt
The Japanese Ryoyu Kobayashi comes to Bischofshofen as the leader.
Image: APA/GEORG HOCHMUTH

A festival with 15,000 fans

Nevertheless, a ski jumping festival is guaranteed in Bischofshofen, where they got the facility back into shape at lightning speed after a snow slide. Around 15,000 fans are expected – many from Germany who are keeping their fingers crossed for Wellinger. Nevertheless, there is more to be said for Kobayashi, who has not yet shown any weakness. He is still missing a day’s victory on this tour, but that is not a prerequisite for triumph. See Janne Ahonen (Fin) in 1999.

Kobayashi is a rather quiet guy, while Hörl is a real “shamer”. “Jan is an incredibly funny guy,” reports Coach Widhölzl about the “Adler” who was content with two beers after his Bergisel coup. Maybe there will be a few more after Bischofshofen.

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Alexander Zambarloukos

Sports editor

Alexander Zambarloukos

Alexander Zambarloukos

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