Younger Kobayashi lands face-saving 7th

PYEONGCHANG (The Japan News/ANN) - Unheralded Ryoyu Kobayashi saved face for Japanese jumpers, finishing seventh in the men’s normal hill at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Saturday.

 In a competition hampered by strong winds, the 21-year-old had the most stable performance among four Japanese jumpers, nailing a pair of 108-meter jumps to collect 240.8 points at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Center.

 Ahead of the event, the spotlight was on eight-time Olympian Noriaki Kasai and Kobayashi’s older brother, Junshiro, who won a World Cup meet in November. But the 45-year-old Kasai finished 21st with jumps of 104.5 meters and 99 meters.

Junshiro Kobayashi, 26, was not able to proceed to the second jump, as his 93-meter jump placed him 31st after his first attempt and meant he failed to make it into the top 30 and earn a final jump. Daiki Ito was 20th.

 “My performance went above and beyond today,” Ryoyu Kobayashi said after the competition. “I was less nervous than the World Cup meets that I’ve been competing at.”

 Kobayashi started 28th out of 50 jumpers in the first round. Cheers erupted from the crowd as he exceeded the 98-meter K-point line and landed near the 109-meter hill size point. Kobayashi smiled and raised both fists modestly to express his satisfaction, as he sat atop the leaderboard at that point.

 The second jump was intermittently interrupted by strong winds — the competition ended an hour behind schedule at around 12:20 a.m. — but Kobayashi did not lose his concentration. His second jump also put him near the hill size point, which moved him up two notches after his first jump to leave him in seventh.

 Kobayashi is from Hachimantai, Iwate Prefecture, and started ski jumping when he was a first-grade elementary school student, following in the footsteps of Junshiro. He made his World Cup debut in the 2015-16 season, finishing seventh in the season opener to catch the eye of ski officials. However, he was unable to proceed to the final jump in any of the 17 Cup meets last season, something he described as “humiliation.”

 Following the advice of Kasai — who also serves as coach of the corporate team to which Kobayashi belongs — the young jumper practiced to overcome a bad habit during takeoffs and trained to strengthen his core.

As a result, his performances began improving, and he marked solid results in the summer ski jumping events last year. He finished second in the UHB Cup in Sapporo on Feb. 3, right behind winner Junshiro.

 The men’s large hill final is set to take place on Saturday.

“I also want to pull off my usual jumps on the large hill, and be a contributing factor to Japan’s entire delegation,” the young jumper said.