|Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi celebrates with his teammates after winning the Four Hills Grand Slam. - AFP Photo|
BISCHOFSHOFEN, Austria — Ryoyu Kobayashi on Sunday became the first Japanese ski jumper and only the third man in history to complete a clean sweep of the prestigious Four Hills tournament when he clinched the final leg in Bischofshofen.
The 22-year-old follows Sven Hannawald (2001/2002) and Kamil Stoch (2017/2018) in achieving the Grand Slam.
After his wins in Oberstdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Innsbruck, Kobayashi glided to victory again on Sunday with jumps of 135m and 137.5m to finish ahead of Austria’s Stefan Kraft and Stephan Leyhe of Germany.
Kobayashi is also just the second Japanese man to clinch the overall Four Hills title after Kazuhoshi Funaki in 1998.
Despite his victory on Sunday, the lightweight 60kg and 1.74m tall Kobayashi insisted that the likes of European stars Hannawald and Stoch remain in a different league to him.
"Both of them are extraordinary jumpers, I’m not yet at their level," he had said modestly on the eve of Sunday’s triumph.
Until this season, Kobayashi had cut a low-profile figure on the ski jumping circuit where he was better known for his hobby as a DJ and a passion for powerful cars rather than his World Cup performances.
However, working under Finnish coach Janne Vaatainen, he has been transformed this season, winning eight of the eleven World Cup rounds, a staggering turnaround for a jumper who had previously been winless.
"When Ryoyu realised that he had to do more than just drive his Porsche, he became good," said Vaatainen.
"I’ve been pushing hard for him to train more, but so far he didn’t like it, he’s enjoying life, whatever he does, he still has that naughty little smile on his face."
Vaatainen’s advice hasn’t fallen completely on deaf ears.
On New Year’s Eve, the whole Japanese team was in bed at 10pm, and at midnight the sport’s newest star was sound asleep. — AFP