Jernej Damjan came close to taking the overall lead
in the FIS Grand Prix today. With 129.5 m and the
longest jump of the day on 139.5 m, the Slovene
came in second in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Only Anders
Bardal of Norway was better with his 131 m and 135.5
m and 263.0 points.
"Of course I'm satisfied", the overall
World Cup winner of 2012 said afterwards. "My
jumps were not as good as in the training here,
but still on a high level. In training I had some
jumps that were feeling even better than the ones
today. Maybe I'm among the favorites for Sochi now
already, because the hills there are similar to
the ones here and in Almaty, but that's good. The
plan is also to compete in Hinzenbach and Klingenthal,
but we'll see."
Surprisingly the third place went to Antonin Hajek
of the Czech Republic. With 131.5 m and 135 m he
scored a total of 247.6 points and achieved his
third podium result in the Grand Prix, his first
since Hakub 2006. Obviously the 26-year-old was
happy about this result: "My jumps were very
good. I was pretty relaxed before my first jump
and it was on the same good level as my jumps in
training. The second jump was much better, because
it was not easy to move up from fifth after the
first round to third."
Bardal participated in four Grand Prix events this
year, he won two of them and was third once. Damjan
also achieved his third podium result this summer
and closed the gap to the overall leader Andreas
Wellinger (GER). The Slovene is now only one point
behind and so a 29th place in Sunday's competition
would be enough for him to take the lead.
"I'm really satisfied", the Slovene said.
"We have been training here since Tuesday and
the jumps in the first training were very good,
but yesterday and in today's trial round I didn't
jump that well. Today I'm pretty happy with my performance
in the competition. The last jump was really good
and I would like to continue like that tomorrow."
Bardal is also only 67 behind the overall leader
right now and has a good chance to win this title.
Reruhi Shimizu, sixth recently in Nizhniy Tagil,
missed the podium by only one point and was fourth.
He achieved his best Grand Prix result this season
and repeated his fourth place of last year's event
in Almaty. Also Olli Muotka will have a smile on
his face. His fifth place today with 243.1 points
was a career best and a ray of hope for the struggeling
Finnish team. Dimitry Vassiliev (242.6 points) confirmed
his upward trend as sixth and was the best Russian,
Matjaz Pungertar (7th; 242.0 points), was the best
Slovene and could follow up on his performances
from the beginning of the summer.
Maximilian Mechler was the best of the small German
team as eighth. Martin Schmitt was again not able
to achieve the targeted Top 10 result as 14th. Young
Slovene Andraz Pograjc was second after the first
round but could not keep his nerves in the final.
With 238.3 points he came in ninth overall. Gregor
Deschwanden was the best athlete of Switzerland
as 11th, the young Swiss team showed an upward trend.
Marco Grigoli was on a good tenth place after the
first round, but lost his chances to achieve a top
result when he fell in the final.
In the Norwegian team there was again a pretty big
gap behind the winner Anders Bardal. Rune Velta
as 13th, Andreas Stjernen as 19th and Tom Hilde
as 22nd could not meet the expectations. US American
Nicholas Alexander continued his streak of consistent
performances. After his two 14th places in Nizhniy
Tagil, he was 15th today. It was a disappointing
day for the Kazakh fans: All five local heroes failed
to qualify for the final round.