Swiss Celebrate Double Gold Medalist

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Geneva, Switzerland Feb. 14, 2002 (AP Naomi Koppel)--The Swiss media went wild Thursday--and for good reason--after 20-year-old ski jumper Simon Ammann came from nowhere to take double gold at the Olympics.

Ammann's victories on both the 90-meter and the 120-meter hills have turned him into a national hero.

``Phenomenal!'' was the headline Thursday in the Lausanne daily 24 Heures. ``Simon superstar'' proclaimed Geneva's Tribune de Geneve newspaper above a picture of Ammann soaring over the Olympic rings.

Sports Minister Samuel Schmid faxed his congratulations and plans were being made to welcome the jumper home in style--but not until after the Olympics, as Ammann still has to take part in the team jumping competition.

In Ammann's home village of Unterwasser, a small winter sports resort in eastern Switzerland, friends and family gathered at the community hall to watch the event on television and celebrate. But it was a party without champagne--Ammann's father, Henrich, had forgotten to put it on ice.

``Of all the flags that were waved during the 90-meter jump--American, Japanese--only the Swiss ones are still flying,'' said the Lausanne daily Le Matin.

The mass circulation Blick printed a poster-size photo of Ammann in flight covering both the front and back pages. Using Ammann's nickname ``Simi,'' its headline read: ``Simissssssimo!''

The Swiss jumper has picked up other nicknames in the past few days. One of those is ``Swissair Ammann''--a reference to the country's collapsed national airline, which is considered to be flying less well than the young Olympian.

Two gold medals represents the entire number brought home by Swiss competitors in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, but this year there are high hopes for a larger haul.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press