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Kasai wins medals 20 years apart at Olympics

February 15, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Noriaki Kasai came close to being the oldest individual gold medal winner at any Winter Olympics on Saturday. Don’t worry, he says, he’ll be back in four years to try again.

The 41-year-old Kasai won silver in the men’s large hill ski jumping event, just edged by Poland’s Kamil Stoch in a close final round at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center.

Kasai, whose first Olympics was at Albertville, France in 1992, now has Olympic medals 20 years apart — he won his first, a team silver with Japan in the large hill — in 1994 at Lillehammer, Norway.

″″All these years I was disappointed by the Olympic Games. Today I just had to do it,” he said. “I wanted gold but you know it is what it is.”

Kasai, who still has a chance to win a team large hill gold with a strong Japanese team here — they had four jumpers finish inside the top 13 Saturday — didn’t hesitate when asked about competing at Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.

“Of course. I want to win. I want the gold medal,” he said.

A gold here would have broken a week-old record set by Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, the 40-year-old cross-country skier from Norway who finished first in the 10-kilometer sprint at Sochi.

Kasai says he’s motivated by athletes like Bjoerndalen — “it means that every person doesn’t have to give up, and you can continue doing sports and pressing for your goal.”

Still, Kasai has a number of age records all to himself.

He’s competing in a record seventh Winter Games, equal with luger Albert Demchenko of Russia, who has won two silvers at Sochi.

Kasai is the oldest Olympic medal winner in ski jumping history, overtaking Birger Ruud of Norway, who took silver in the men’s normal hill at St. Moritz in 1948 at the age of 36.

In January, he became the oldest ski jumper to win a World Cup event — at Tauplitz, Austria.

The man who began ski jumping when he was nine and enjoys golfing, fishing and collecting wine made a big impression on the man who beat him Saturday.

“Of course I can understand him, because I think this was his big dream and he deserves this medal,” Stoch said.

“I congratulate him that he finally gets what he wanted because Kasai is a great man and a great challenger. It’s a great pleasure to be next to him right now.”

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