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The Warsaw Voice » Society » February 4, 2010
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Jumping at Zako
February 4, 2010   
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Gregor Schlierenzauer of Austria won two ski jumping World Cup events in the southern Polish town of Zakopane Jan. 22-23, edging out Simon Ammann of Switzerland.

Jan. 23 marked Schlierenzauer's seventh victory of the season and his 31st World Cup win.

Polish ski-jumping star Adam Małysz came in fifth Jan. 22 and fourth Jan. 23.

Some 40,000 people turned up at Zakopane's Wielka Krokiew hill during the two days, braving bitterly cold weather that saw the mercury plummet to -15 C. A red-and-white crowd started snaking its way towards Wielka Krokiew hours before the competition even got under way. The grandstands were packed with over 20,000 supporters. At least twice as many gathered in the nearby streets and the meadows adjoining the hill.

"The atmosphere is amazing, just incredible… it's the same here every year. I've been jumping here for years now and Zakopane is always packed with supporters," said Ammann, this season's overall World Cup leader who pulled up second on both days.

Ammann set a new Wielka Krokiew record with a jump of 140.5 m Jan. 23.
Top Austrian jumper Andreas Kofler said, "I just love coming here, like all the competitors. There's nothing to compare with the Zakopane competition. You don't get crowds like this anywhere."
Schlierenzauer, asked about his performance at Zakopane and his chances at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, said, "Zakopane is one of my favorite hills, but the Olympic Games are not the same as the World Cup competition. On the other hand, I'm still a young competitor and I won't see not winning the Olympics now as a failure."

Over the past seven years, Zakopane has been regularly welcoming the world's top ski jumpers. Zakopane first saw World Cup action Jan. 26, 1980 when top honors went to Polish jumper Stanisław Bobak. Next day it was his compatriot Piotr Fijas's turn.

Małysz is the greatest Polish jumper of all time, having won at Zakopane in 2002 and twice in 2005. Małysz's winning streak in the 2000/2001 World Cup season sparked an unprecedented upsurge in interest in ski jumping in Poland. Małysz soon found himself the center of media and public attention in Poland and countries where ski jumping has always enjoyed a great deal of interest.

Małysz's appearances are followed by millions in Poland via television. Eleven million viewers tuned in to watch him jump Jan. 17-18, 2004. The 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, attracted record ratings. Fourteen million viewers watched Małysz in one of the competitions. The Polish phenomenon of "Małyszomania" has been deemed worthy of serious study by social psychologists.

The next World Cup to be held in Zakopane is planned for Jan. 21-22, 2011. The International Ski Federation (FIS) drew up the 2009-2014 World Cup calendar in 2008 and penciled in Zakopane for each of those years.

Dominik Skurzak, Zakopane
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