Swiss Ammann Surprise Winner of 90K Jump

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Park City, Utah Feb. 10, 2002 (AP by Tom Withers)--Simon Ammann, forced to sit out several weeks during the World Cup season because of injuries, won Switzerland's first gold medal in ski jumping Sunday with a clutch, final jump on the 90-meter hill.

Favorite Sven Hannawald of Germany took the silver and Adam Malysz of Poland the bronze after the 20-year-old Ammann clinched the gold by sticking a jump of 323 feet (98.5 meters) on the final attempt of the competition.

American Alan Alborn of Anchorage, Alaska, who hoped to end a 78-year medal drought for the U.S. team, finished 11th.

Ammann's jump came just seconds after Hannawald's 327-foot jump (99 meters), the longest of the day, had given the German the temporary lead.

After sliding to a stop, Ammann took off his skis and anxiously peered through them at the giant scoreboard almost afraid to look at the result.

But once it was posted, Hannawald gave Ammann a congratulatory pat on the helmet and Swiss jumpers Sylvain Frieholz and Andreas Kuettel tackled their 5-foot-8, 120-pound teammate and hoisted him on their shoulders.

``I was sure he had a medal, but I wasn't sure it was gold,'' said Frieholz, who had waited nervously at the base of the hill. ``He was quite calm. You could feel he was strong.''

The Swiss hadn't won a medal in ski jumping since Walter Steiner took silver at the 1972 Sapporo Games.

Ammann finished with 269 points. Hannawald, who admitted being nervous after his first jump, had 267.5 points. Malysz had 263 points and became the first Polish jumper to win an Olympic medal since Wojciech Fortuna, who won the gold in 1972.

Like many of the 20,000 fans, Alborn was surprised by Ammann's victory.

``In the past few days he's had some good jumps, it's just a matter of putting them together,'' Alborn said. ``He came out of nowhere.''

Winds in excess of 50 mph whipped snow at the top of the mountain canceled Friday's qualifying, but Sunday's weather could have been lifted straight off a postcard for the Utah outdoors.

Skies were crystal clear and there was little or no wind during most of the jumping.

Ammann had suffered an injury to his back and head during training in December and was forced to take a break from the World Cup tour.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press