The 62nd edition of the 4-Hills-Tournament in ski jumping promises to be as exciting as it hasn't been in a while. After the course of the World Cup winter so far, there are more favorites than ever. The group of potential 4-Hills winners is lead by World Cup leader Kamil Stoch of Poland and second-placed serial winner Austrian Gregor Schlierenzauer.
Both athletes already won twice this season, with Kamil Stoch achieving clearly better results than Schlierenzauer recently with two wins and two second places in Titisee-Neustadt and Engelberg. But still the experience at the 4-Hills-Tournament speaks for the Austrian. In the last seven years Schlierenzauer won nine competitions at the 4-Hills-Tournament, with his two overall wins in 2011/12 and 2012/13 he can achieve a historic third win in a row. So far this happened only once in the history of the world's most legendary ski jumping event: Norwegian Bjoern Wirkola won the 4-Hills-Tournament three times in a row from 1966/67 to 1968/69. For comparison: Kamil Stoch won nine World Cup competitions, none of which during the 4-Hills-Tournament.
But, as proven by the so far only Polish 4-Hills-Tournament winner, this doesn't have to mean much: In the 2000/01 season nobody would have considered Adam Malysz one of the favorites, but then he laid the foundation for his outstanding career with winning the 4-Hills-Tournament.
The competition on the world class is extremely tight before the 62nd 4-Hills-Tournament. In the World Cup, Kamil Stoch and Gregor Schlierenzauer are followed by third-placed Anders Bardal (NOR) and with Severin Freund and Andreas Wellinger two Germans are also among the favorites. Freund won the World Cup competition on the large hill in Lillehammer early December, Wellinger was second in the World Cup opening in Klingenthal and in the latest competition in Engelberg. With Richard Freitag, Marinus Kraus and Karl Geiger of Oberstdorf the German Ski Association has a few more irons in the fire.
Also Japanese Taku Takeuchi, ski jumping veteran Noriaki Kasai and the flying Swiss, Simon Ammann, are capable of achieving a podium result in the overall ranking or winning the one or the other competition.
Maybe also 4-Hills-Tournament legend Janne Ahonen of Finland will make headlines again: The 35-year-old, who is the only ski jumper to win the 4-Hills-Tournament five times, is making his second comeback at the 4-Hills and showed some good performances in the World Cup recently, like a fifth place in Titisee-Neustadt. "With my experience I can always be good for a surprise", the Finn is optimistic before the opener in Oberstdorf.
The ski jumping community will also be exited to see the performances of yet another 4-Hills veteran: Martin Schmitt will take part in the 4-Hills-Tournament for the 18th time, for 42-year-old Noriaki Kasai it will even be the 22nd participation. Not only Austrian fans will cross their fingers for Thomas Morgenstern when he makes his comeback. The 27-year-old crashed a day after his win in the second competition in Titisee-Neustadt and broke a finger. The three-time Olympic Champion will probably compete again in Oberstdorf.