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Olympics: Germany ends Austrian dominance in team ski jump

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Germany ended Austria's dominance in the ski jumping team event on Monday, taking gold in a down-to-the-wire Olympic competition.

The four-man German team collected 1041.1 points over two rounds and eight jumps, ahead of defending Olympic champions Austria and a delighted Japanese team, led by veteran Noriaki Kasai.

This ends Austria's nine-year dominance at the Olympics and world championships, where the small alpine country has won nine straight titles in the men's team event.

Throughout the final round, Germany and Austria remained neck-and-neck but the red, yellow and gold team eventually proved it was strongest on the 140-metre large hill.

Austria narrowly missed gold at 1038.4 points -- 2.7 points behind Germany -- with Japan in third with 1024.9 points.

Germany, made up of Severin Freund, Andreas Wellinger, Marinus Kraus and Andreas Wank, become the first ever country to win three Olympic golds in the team event.

For the Austrians, who were seeking a record third straight Olympic title, silver was still a good result after an average season.

The dominant ski jumping nation in recent years, they finished a shocking fifth in Klingenthal at the start of the season -- their worst result since 2004 -- before coming back to third last month in Zakopane, Poland.

They also included an out-of-sorts Gregor Schlierenzauer, record World Cup winner, and Thomas Morgenstern, who suffered two serious crashes in December and January and was long uncertain for the Games.

Both jumpers were part of the 2010 team that won gold in Vancouver.

Young sensation Thomas Diethart, winner of the prestigious Four Hills tournament last month, and Michael Hayboeck completed the Austrian quartet.

- 'We had some problems' -

"I'm happy with the medal. It's been hard these last days. We had some problems," said Schlierenzauer, last season's overall World Cup winner.

"I was not in perfect shape. It was a hard fight. The teams are really strong, but a medal is always great and silver is very good."

"It was very, very close. I did not do the best jump, but four or five points is really nothing."

His teammate Morgenstern's reaction showed even more clearly the joyful mood after winning "only" silver: "YESSS BABY! WE DID IT!!!" he tweeted.

Japan's Kasai, who won individual silver on the large hill on Saturday at age 41, excitedly waved a tiny Japanese flag in the finish area after putting in a jump of 134 metres.

This is Japan's third Olympic team medal in ski jumping after silver in 1994 and gold at home in 1998.

Poland's Kamil Stoch had been seeking to equal Finnish jumper Matti Nykanen's 1988 clean sweep at the Calgary Games, having already won double gold on the normal and large hill in Sochi.

But a victory in the team event, requiring good performances from four jumpers, was not in the cards.

"We fought to the end but it wasn't to be today," said the current World Cup leader.

Slovenia, which has won all three of the last World Cup team events, had to make do with fifth place.

Twelve countries took part in the first round but only eight qualified for the second, with Canada, Russia, the United States and South Korea failing to make the cut.

In the first round, Canada's Matthew Rowley caused a brief scare when he crashed after landing. But he quickly stood up again to cheers from the crowd.

Last week, Russian ski jumper Mikhail Maksimochkin suffered rib injuries and had to be stretchered away from the course after a horror fall in training.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140217/olympics-germany-ends-austrian-dominance-team-ski-jump-0