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[ODDS and EVENS] Ryoyu Kobayashi Enjoys a Successful Start to the New Year

Veteran ski jumper Ryoyu Kobayashi won the Four Hills Tournament for the third time, becoming the sixth man to achieve the feat in the event's 72-year history.

For Ryoyu Kobayashi, the year got off to a flying start ― literally.

The Japanese ski jumper triumphed in the Four Hills Tournament, which was held at a quartet of locations in Germany and Austria and wrapped up on January 6. 

Kobyashi collected his third title in this major competition after previously winning it in 2019 and 2022. It was an achievement that highlights his standing as one of the sport's elite talents. 

The Four Hills Tournament has been held annually since 1953, and only six men have won it three or more times: Janne Ahonen (five titles), Jens Weissflog (four), Kamil Stoch, Bjorn Wirkola, Helmut Recknagel and Kobayashi (three apiece).

In 1998, two-time Olympic gold medalist Kazuyoshi Funaki became the first Japanese to win the Four Hills Tournament.

Kobayashi, the Olympic normal hill gold medalist at the 2022 Beijing Games, finished in second place in each of the four events that combine to make up the end-of-year/new year spectacle of flying winter sportsmen. All four rounds are also contested as individual FIS Ski Jumping World Cup events.

On December 29, Kobayashi started off with a 306.3-point effort in Oberstdorf, Germany, trailing only Andreas Wellinger (309.3), who represented the host nation.

Then, on New Year's Day, Kobayashi amassed 292.6 points to finish second to Slovenia's Anze Lanisek (295.8) in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Ryoyu Kobayashi
Ryoyu Kobayashi celebrates with the trophy after winning the Four Hills Tournament on January 6. (Kai Pfaffenbach/REUTERS)

Success Continues in Austria

The tournament shifted to Austria for the last two rounds, with the 27-year-old Kobayashi producing consistently strong jumps in qualifying and competition.

In Innsbruck, Kobayashi chalked up 258.7 points. Austria's Jan Hoerl triumphed with 267.5 points on January 3.

Windy conditions posed challenges for Kobayashi and the other participants.

"Today was tough but it was the same situation for everyone. I had two good jumps," Kobayashi said, according to The Associated Press. "The overall lead changes nothing."

On January 6, Kobayashi soared 137 meters and 139 meters on his two jumps in Bischofshofen, earning 287.6 points for his stellar performance. Austrian Stefan Kraft secured a narrow victory over Kobayashi, finishing the fourth round with 288.9 points.

Ryoyu Kobayashi
Ryoyu Kobayashi in action during his trial round at the Four Hills Tournament in Bischofshofen, Austria, on January 6. (Kai Pfaffenbach/REUTERS)

For Ryoyu Kobayashi, Consistency Leads to Four Hills Title

In the final standings, Kobayashi's consistency paid off, as he accumulated 1,145.2 points to beat silver medalist Wellinger (1,120.7) and Kraft (1,112.7).

"I am happy," Kobayashi was quoted as saying by Eurosport after wrapping up the title. "Today, there were too many things happening, but I concentrated on jumping and was really satisfied."

Wellinger paid tribute to Kobayashi after the Four Hills Tournament concluded.

"Ryoyu is a damn good ski jumper and [he] did it best," Wellinger told German broadcaster ARD, referring to the leaderboard.

Kobayashi's spontaneous sense of humor was on display in an interview with Eurosport, as noted in Olympics.com's event report. Responding to an inquiry about whether his latest Four Hills Tournament title was easier to achieve than his previous two, the Iwate Prefecture native smiled and remarked, "I don't remember!"

Ryoyu Kobayashi
Olympic gold medalist Ryoyu Kobayashi at the 2022 Beijing Games. (SANKEI)

It's just a shoe!

A Career of Accomplishments

The 2023-24 FIS Ski Jumping World Cup season got underway in late November. Kobayashi earned his first podium finish (third place) of the campaign on December 9 in Klingenthal, Germany.

He now owns five top-three finishes with the Four Hills Tournament results calculated, too.

After 12 of 32 events this season, Kobayashi sits in third place in the overall standings (591 points). Only Kraft (909) and Wellinger (697) have more points.

With strong results in upcoming competitions, Kobayashi has a shot at overtaking Wellinger and positioning himself for a run at the overall season title, which he won in the 2018-19 campaign. He also won it in the 2021-22 season.

In addition, Kobayashi has 30 victories in individual World Cup events in a career that began in 2015. He bagged his first win in a large hill competition on November 24, 2018, in Ruka, Finland.

It was a competition trimmed to a single round because of strong winds.

When it was over, Kobayashi commented on his performance.

"Even if we only posted one [jump], it is a victory so I'm glad. I knew I would win an event this season," Kobayashi was quoted as saying by Kyodo News.

He added, "I see myself growing. I aim for 10 wins [this season]."

After that victory in Finland, Kobayashi achieved his goal, winning 12 more World Cup events in the 2018-19 season. It was the best season of his career.

Between now and late March, he has plenty more opportunities to vie for victories in the current World Cup season, including February 16-18 in Sapporo.

Enjoy watching Kobayashi, who has one of the most exciting jobs on the planet, soaring through the air.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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