Slovenia’s Ursa Bogataj won Olympic gold in women’s ski jumping on a night when Japanese star Sara Takanashi surprisingly finished out of the medals.
Bogataj floated 100 meters (328.084 feet) through the air and had 121 points on the final jump Saturday. Katharina Althaus of Germany won silver for the second straight Olympics. Nika Kriznar of Slovenia took the bronze.
Takanashi finished fourth and was in tears when she took her skis off after her final jump. She has won a record 61 World Cup events and entered the competition as one of the favorites after earning bronze four years ago in South Korea and finishing fourth at the 2014 Olympics.
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Norway’s Maren Lundby, who won gold at the 2018 Olympics, chose not to defend her title because she decided to make her physical and mental health priorities.
Marita Kramer of Austria, the top-ranked woman in World Cup standings, was not cleared to compete after testing positive for COVID-19.
The absence of Lundby and Kramer cleared the way for the field of women that jumped on a cold night with a wind chill of minus-13 Celsius (8.6 degrees Fahrenheit) as gusts made flags from participating nations flap.
Tickets are not for sale at the Beijing Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but about 150,000 invited spectators are expected to attend events. About 500 of those fans were in the stands at the National Ski Jumping Center, one of the jewels at the Beijing Games.
The spectacular facility has been nicknamed Snow Ruyi after an ancient ski slope-shaped jade ornament symbolizing good fortune.
Women jumped for gold for the third time, and each Olympics has had a unique winner. Lundby, who was a dominant force in the sport, won four years ago, and Germany’s Carina Vogt finished first at the inaugural Olympic ski jumping event for women at the Sochi Games in 2014.
On Saturday night, the final round was delayed by 15 minutes to give the athletes a brief break after the first round took more time than expected.
Althaus jumped 105.5 meters (346 feet) had 121.1 points in the first round. She was closely followed by a trio of Slovenians. In the end, she came up just short of gold.
Anna Hoffman, the only American woman to jump in China, finished 37th in her first Olympic appearance.