40,000 to shiver to watch Four Hills
Around 40,000 people will shiver in the snow of Oberstdorf on Dec. 30, straining necks and eyes as ski jumping’s prestigious Four Hills gets underway with their own German Alpine stars expected to sweep to victory.
The sport’s blue riband event, a Christmas and New Year fixture of the ski jumping calendar since 1953, takes on extra significance this year with the 2018 Winter Olympics just six weeks away. Germany’s Richard Freitag is the favorite having taken the lead in the overall World Cup competition
He will be keen to lay down a marker on Saturday at his home venue before the Four Hills moves to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and then into Austria at Innsbruck and Bischofshofen.
Freitag, the leader of the German ‘Eagles’, has won three of the last five World Cup outings with two second places.
“I already know that he is capable of jumping well, but it’s that he does it so regularly that gives us a huge satisfaction,” said Werner Schuster, the coach of the German team.
Freitag, 26, will be desperate to make his mark with the Four Hills and an Olympic title to add to his only international triumph so far, the 2015 world championship. Teammate Andreas Wellinger is the team’s great hope for the future and is currently second in the World Cup standings.
He already has two gold medals from the team event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the big hill followed by another triumph in the mixed team event at this year’s world championships in Finland.
The leading threat to a German sweep of the Four Hills title is Poland’s Kamil Stoch.
The 30-year-old is the defending champion and captured double Olympic gold on the big and normal hills at Sochi and world titles in 2013 and 2017. Austria will rely on 24-year-old Stefan Kraft to shatter German and Polish hopes.