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Friendship Amid Rivalry
March 31, 2011   
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The winter season’s final World Cup ski jumping competition left fans delighted as Polish champion Adam Ma造sz finished third in his last such appearance before retiring from the sport, while Poland’s Kamil Stoch claimed victory.

That result at Planica, Slovenia, meant that Ma造sz—one of the world’s best ski jumpers of the past decade—finished third in this year’s overall World Cup standings.

The veteran champion sharing the podium with the young pretender Stoch was a finale that surpassed the wildest expectations of Polish fans. Stoch, the number two jumper in the Polish team throughout the season, now has a good chance of taking over the mantle from Ma造sz in the sport. Stoch won three competitions during the season and finished 10th in the 2010/2011 World Cup table.

Apart from the results, the Planica event, on the world’s second largest ski jumping hill, was notable for another reason—one no less important and uplifting. In the ski jumping community, conflicts between contestants are rare, while long-standing friendships between the fiercest of rivals are commonplace. Years ago, when Ma造sz was at the start of his successful career, German tabloids tried to provoke a showdown between him and Sven Hannawald, then the star of the German team. While landing after his jumps, Hannawald used to make gestures that many described as provocative. The jumper himself referred to his behavior as “perhaps excessively ostentatious joy.” At one of the competitions, some Polish fans started to throw snowballs at Hannawald. Ma造sz immediately distanced himself from that kind of behavior. As a result, later, during a competition in the Polish resort of Zakopane, Polish fans gave Hannawald a standing ovation. That left the German visibly moved and was widely reported in the media.

It is no surprise then that Ma造sz was liked and respected throughout his career. At Planica, many of his competitors, including Switzerland’s Simon Ammann, a four-time Olympic champion, had a fake mustache painted on their faces to pay a humorous tribute to the retiring champion. Ma造sz is known for sporting a mustache. The World Cup winners ceremony was also held in an atmosphere of friendship.

Back home, an official farewell event for Ma造sz was scheduled to be held in Zakopane at the end of March. His ski jumping rivals and friends promised to attend.
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