Friday, December 26, 2014

2014-15 Four Hills Tournament preview

The New Year is coming close and it is the time for the Four Hills Tournament. I am already eagerly looking forward to it. The last ski jumping season was a pleasure to watch with so many jumpers able to succeed, and this season seems just as good. That makes predicting the tournament winner very hard.

Austria has a winning streak since the 2008-09 tournament. But Austria's dominance in ski jumping has ended. The best Austrian in the World Cup is Michael Hayböck on third place. He is having a solid season with four podium results and is still to miss the top 10. He is one of the favorites.

Last year's winner Thomas Diethart has been badly out of form this year and can't be expected to repeat his victory. Two-time Four Hills Champion Gregor Schlierenzauer has one win and one second place from this season but there have also been some mediocre results that he can't afford at the Four Hills.

Anders Fannemel is the current World Cup leader. After a brilliant start to the season, the last weekend in Engelberg was worryingly his two worst competitions of this winter. If he can return to the level he was earlier this season, then he is fighting for the title.

I think the most impressive jumper of the season has been Roman Koudelka. Three wins, one second place, and only once out of the top 10 (11th in the 1st Lillehammer competition). He is only two points behind Fannemel in the World Cup standings, despite missing the competitions in Nizhny Tagil. He is my favorite for the Four Hills title.

After winning almost everything else in the sport, Simon Ammann is still in the quest of his first Four Hills title. Apart from the 1st Lillehammer competition in inconsistent win conditions, he has always been in the top 10, including two wins in Kuusamo. He had some excellent jumps last weekend in Engelberg, so he has a good chance to win that elusive title this time. But the opponents are strong.

The biggest hopes for the other host country, Germany, seem to be Severin Freund and Richard Freitag. Freund has had a solid start to his season but to win the Four Hills title, he need to start beating others. Freitag didn't start the season so well but had an excellent weekend in Engelberg with a win and a fifth place.

These are some but not all of the jumpers able to win the Four Hills title. The best Japanese, Noriaki Kasai, Daiki Ito, and Taku Takeuchi, skipped the last two weekends, so their form is hard to predict. Kasai started the season well and shared the win in the 2nd Kuusamo competition plus was third in the first competition there, with Ito on the second place.

Other jumpers capable for good results include Peter Prevc, Jernej Damjan, Anders Bardal, and Stefan Kraft. Kamil Stoch's form is a huge question mark. Last winter's World Cup champion and double Olympic gold medalist injured his ankle just before the season started and Oberstdorf will be his first World Cup competition for this winter. That is far from an ideal situation before the Four Hills.

So, this Four Hills Tournament seems hard to predict. My favorites are Koudelka followed by Ammann, Hayböck, and Fannemel.

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