WHISTLER, British Columbia — Swiss ski jumper Simon Ammann won the first gold medal winner of the Vancouver Olympics, earning his third Olympic title by winning the normal hill event Saturday.
Polish veteran Adam Malysz took silver, and 20-year-old Gregor Schlierenzauer of Austria recovered from a disappointing first jump to earn bronze on his Olympic debut.
Ammann showed his mastery of the smaller hill at Whistler's Olympic Park with the longest jumps in both rounds – he took a commanding lead with a 105-meter effort and then soared 108 meters with his second jump for a total score of 276.5 points.
He knew right away he was the winner, pumping his arm in celebration before raising two clenched fists into the air. He then ran onto the podium at the flower ceremony, his index and middle fingers forming a V-sign as he shot his arm forward, like a ski jumper taking off in flight.
"I have no words to describe the situation," the 28-year-old Ammann said. "It's crazy, I tried so hard and I focused so much on my competitions here. But everyone here is at their best."
Ammann also swept both individual events at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, where Malysz was second in the large hill. He became the first ski jumper since Finnish great Matti Nykanen to win three individual golds.
Malysz, a four-time individual world champion still looking for his first Olympic gold medal, had been third after the first round and finished with 269.5 points. Schlierenzauer seemed to mistime his takeoff in the first round and squandered his chance for a gold with a mediocre 101.5-meter jump, but climbed from seventh to third after soaring 106.5 meters in the second for 268 points.
The Austrian defending overall World Cup champion had set the longest jump in the qualifying round and entered his first Olympics with a legitimate shot at sweeping all three events. A bronze, however, didn't seem like too much of a disappointment.
"Dreams are coming true," Schlierenzauer said. "Hopefully more as the games go on."
Michael Uhrmann of Germany was a surprising second after the first round, but only managed 102 meters in the second to miss the podium.