It was a goosebumps moment when 41-year-old Noriaki Kasai was called to the podium during the second victory ceremony in Titisee-Neustadt. Enthusiasm out of sympathy and respect for the way he presented himself at the hills over the past years and made so many friends. Kasai is part of a Japanese team that hasn't been as strong as this winter in a long time.
With Taku Takeuchi, Daiki Ito and Noriaki Kasai three athletes of the team of head coach Tomoharu Yokokawa were on the podium this season (Takeuchi was 2nd in Lillehammer NH, Daiki Ito 3rd in Lillehammer LH, Noriaki Kasai 3rd in Neustadt). The team of Nippon is currently second in the Nation's Cup, behind Germany.
The team around the three top athletes started this winter with a new strategy, and part of this strategy is to return home for Christmas. In order to have the chance to spend the holidays at home, the Japanese team will not compete in the World Cup in Switzerland next weekend. "In the past years we didn't go home and, in retrospect, we would have needed this. That's why we changed it this winter, that has always been our plan", said head coach Yokokawa.
So the fans can look forward to see a well rested and extremely strong team of Japan at the opening event of the 4-Hills-Tournament in Oberstdorf.