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Takanashi lands long-awaited Olympic medal

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Sara Takanashi competes during the women’s individual event on Monday night.

By Hiromu Namiki / Japan News Staff Writer PYEONGCHANG — Fans of Sara Takanashi celebrated as the 21-year-old finished third in the women’s individual ski jumping event at the Pyeongchang Games on Monday — giving her a long-awaited Olympic medal.

Takanashi nailed a pair of 103.5-meter jumps to earn 243.8 points at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Center. Maren Lundby of Norway won the gold medal, followed by Germany’s Katharina Althaus.

For Takanashi, the medal was redemption after the bitterness she experienced four years ago at the Sochi Olympics — entering the competition as a gold-medal favorite, but ending up fourth.

Takanashi expressed joy on Tuesday, the day after winning a medal.

“I feel half-relieved, and half-disappointed, as I didn’t reach the goal of winning the gold medal,” she said at a press conference at the Japan House in Pyeongchang.

Takanashi, who has won 53 World Cup meets, reflected on her fourth-place finish at Sochi.

“Over the [past] four years, I have used my feelings of frustration as a catalyst to train hard,” said Takanashi, who was satisfied with her performance despite finishing behind Lundby and Althaus.

“I made two satisfying jumps. It was good that I believed in myself when taking off,” Takanashi said. “I enjoyed the competition. I feel as bright and clear as ever.”

Lundby and Althaus have dominated on the World Cup tour this year, and Takanashi pointed to Lundby’s steadiness.

“Maren has been on a rising tide, and her momentum didn’t drop off,” Takanashi said. “Those two have different styles of jump, but I think Maren became the winner because she didn’t have any ups and downs in her performance.”

Takanashi expressed determination toward the next Olympics. “I’ve been made painfully aware that I’m still not good enough to win the gold medal.

“However, this is not my goal. I want to make the [2022] Beijing Olympics the moment to finally win the gold medal, and deliver feelings of gratitude to people who have supported me.”

Fans young and old rejoice

Her fans were filled with happiness on Monday.

“I was moved,” said 60-year-old Keiichiro Makino, who came from Kagoshima. “I assume she was under huge pressure. She did really well.”

Said 11-year-old Nijito Sato from Kamikawa, Hokkaido, at the Games with his parents: “I’m happy she won the bronze medal. The level of competition was high.”

Takanashi’s performance provided inspiration to Sato, who has been ski jumping for six years. “I want to be a famous jumper who competes at the Olympics,” he added.

Takanashi made her two successful jumps while riding a wave of cheers, although Althaus and Lundby outperformed her both times.

The Norwegian capped off the event with a 110-meter jump — the longest of the day.

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