Sitting on the bar at the top of the K90 hill, Simon Ammann felt "horrible, I was so nervous." The 20-year-old Swiss who had never won an international competition was up against the two big names of ski jumping, Germany's Sven Hannawald and Adam Malysz of Poland. But by the time Ammann leapt out into the pristine air over the Utah Olympic Park, he knew his final jump would be a good one. With a distance of 98.5 m and a perfect landing, it gave him the gold. He thus became the first Swiss ever to win in Olympic ski jumping.
When the competition moved onto the 120-m hill three days later, Ammann's confidence couldn't get any higher. After the first jump of the medal round, he was tied on points with Hannawald. On his second and final attempt, Hannawald jumped short and fell on landing, which pushed him back to fourth place behind Finland's Matti Hautamaeki. With Malysz in silver- medal position, Ammann knew he had to pull out a good jump. He did, launching the competition's longest jump, 133 m, for his second gold. "I knew immediately that this was the jump," he said. "It was such a good feeling."
Ammann's career had been unspectacular until last December, when he took two second places and two thirds in World Cup contests. An injury during training in January forced him off the World Cup tour for three weeks. After last week's success, the jumper, who could win the Harry Potter lookalike contest, said, "I felt I could be among the top people. But I didn't imagine it would be possible to win." Winning is something he obviously has to get used to.