LAKE PLACID, New York ??вЂќ Wojciech Skupien of Poland opened the Flaming Leaves Festival, presented by Citizens Bank, with a come-from-behind victory Saturday in a Continental Cup 90 meter ski jumping competition.
The competition was held in Lake Placid and conducted by the New York Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).
Skupien’s win, which came in cold, damp conditions on the 1980 Olympic ski jumping complex, enabled Poland to continue its domination of the summer tour. Going into Sunday’s season finale, Poland has three ski jumpers ranked in the top eight.
The 29 year old Skupien, third after an opening jump of 94.5 meters, uncorked the longest men’s flight of the day in the second round at 97.5 meters. The winner totaled 257 points for distance and style. He bested teammate Marcin Bachleda, the Continental Cup tour leader with 679 points. Bachleda, who captured a SuperTour meet Friday on the same hill, jumped 96 and 95.5 meters, good for 254.5 points and second place.
“Today was cold but the wind conditions were stable,” said Skupien, eighth in the overall standings with 240 points. He only joined the summer tour last week and has two wins in the past three tournaments. “This is my first time on this hill but I needed no special technique for it. I’m jumping the same on all hills. I’m happy with my summer jumping, but I’m concentrating on winter.”
First round leader, Anders Bardal of Norway, dropped to third place with attempts of 96 and 94.5 meters for 253 points.
With the 2006 Winter Olympics on the horizon in Italy, many in the field are using the Continental Cup as a springboard to an Olympic team berth.
Another member of the Polish team, Stefan Hula, is sixth on the season with 283 points. Hula slipped to 12th on Saturday.
Salt Lake City Olympian Clint Jones took fifth with 93.5 and 92.5 meter jumps and 241 points. Jones, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., is second overall with 433 points on the strength of four podium finishes.
2002 Olympic teammate Tommy Schwall, also of Steamboat Springs, was 11th.
Anette Sagen of Norway captured the ladies event by overcoming first round leader Atsuko Tanaka of Canada. Sagen, second in the opening leg with a jump of 94.5 meters, flew 94 meters in the second and accumulated 245.5 points.
The ladies began from a higher start gate than the men to create greater speed at the take-off.
Tanaka, 13 years old, had the longest women’s jump of the day ??вЂњ 99 meters ??вЂњ to become the halfway leader before slipping to 86.5 meters in her final round. Tanaka, the Friday SuperTour winner, finished fourth.
“The weather didn’t bother me,” said the 20 year old Sagen. “I don’t care as long as it’s consistent. What mattered was the wind and there wasn’t much of it in the first round. What is important here is the technique coming off the knoll. It’s an old type hill but it’s a good one.”
Sagen leads the overall Continental Cup standings with just one meet remaining. “I’ve been skiing good this summer and last winter, too.”
Like many in the women’s field, Sagen will continue until 2010 at which time the sport’s proponents hope to see women’s ski jumping included in the Vancouver, British Columbia Winter OIympic program.
Daniela Iraschko of Austria placed second on the strength of 94 and 91 meter jumps for 237 points. Germany’s Ulrike Graessler finished third with 236 points after jumping 93.5 and 92 meters.
The United States put four in the top 11, lead by Jessica Jerome in seventh place. Lindsey Van took ninth, Alissa Johnson 10th and Abby Hughes 11th. All four train at the National Sports Foundation in Park City, Utah.
Sagen is atop the ladies Continental Cup tour with 570 points; Van is second at 389; Jerome is third with 377; Line Jahr of Norway is fourth on 371.
For more information on ORDA venues and events and for complete results of today’s competition, please log on to www.orda.org.