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Olympic gold medal contender Takanashi wins at Hinzenbach

Feb 1, 2014, 4:52 PM EST

Sara Takanashi AP

Expected to be one of the primary figures in the battle for the first-ever Olympic gold medal in women’s ski jumping, Japan’s Sara Takanashi earned her ninth FIS World Cup win of the season today in windy Hinzenbach, Austria.

The 17-year-old Takanashi, who figures to duel with Team USA’s Sarah Hendrickson for that Sochi gold, will have her final event before the Olympics tomorrow (again at Hinzenbach).

Her jumps of 87.0 and 90 meters led her to a score of 231.7, enough to top Austrian runner-up Daniela Iraschko-Stolz and her score of 226.9 (jumps of 82 and 90.5 meters). Maja Vtic of Slovenia was third (score: 223.5; jumps of 88.5 and 85.0 meters), earning her first career World Cup podium.

“The wind was changing a lot, as you could see,” Takanashi said in an FIS release. “But I did my best and at the end I could win. This success gives me self-confidence for the Olympic Games.”

Takanashi is looking forward to competing in Sochi and, in particular, with Hendrickson – who returned to jumping last month after sustaining a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee during a crash in Germany last August.

“It’s not so much fun jumping without [Hendrickson],” she said about her American counterpart in December. “I have learned a lot of things from her. To me, she is a sort of icon rather than a rival. I don’t consider myself champion.”

The inaugural Olympic women’s ski jumping competition takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

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