Simon Ammann trying to surpass Matti Nykaenen in medals, not idiosyncrasies


KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Affable Swiss ski jumper Simon Ammann could overtake one of the most mercurial Olympians ever with another successful Games.

But when Ammann is asked about the embattled four-time Olympic champion Matti Nykaenen, he doesn’t recall the Finn’s ski jumping accomplishments. Nor Nykaenen’s problems in retirement.

“Last year, we had a really nice basketball game,” Ammann said after training Thursday night. “He was really in a good mood. Everything was fine. We had legends against the active jumpers. It was super cool.

“I got his shirt after, with his sweat and everything.”

Ammann came from nowhere to sweep the normal and large hill competitions at the 2002 Olympics at age 20. At the time, his resemblance to Harry Potter gave Ammann a hint of fame in the U.S.

He swept the same events at the 2010 Olympics to match Nykaenen’s record of four career Olympic ski jumping golds – though one of Nykaenen’s was a team gold. He also drew within one of Nykaenen’s record of five career Olympic ski jumping medals of any color.

One gold in Sochi and two medals of any color would make Ammann the solo most decorated Olympic ski jumper ever in either view.

WATCH: See Ammann’s golden moments at Vancouver

Ammann’s had his share of issues, capped by an equipment controversy and row with Austrians in 2010, but he’s dull compared to Nykaenen, who is now 50.

Here are some reported bullet points from the Finnish star since his triumphs at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics:

  • Fell asleep at the wheel and drove off a bridge
  • Engaged one week to a 17-year-old Estonian
  • Worked for a sex-chat phone line
  • Spent Christmas 2009 in jail after assaulting his estranged spouse, a sausage millionairess
  • Stabbed a friend after losing a finger-pulling competition
  • Worked as a stripper at a restaurant
  • Celebrity chef
  • Five marriages and bouts with depression and alcoholism
  • Released three music albums

Ammann is aware that Nykaenen’s reputation has been torn to shreds, again and again.

“I never went to his concerts,” Ammann said. “I was always a bit afraid of seeing him in a bad way.”

To Nykaenen’s credit, he has barely been in the news the last few years.

As for Ammann, he would not appear to be a gold-medal threat in Sochi. He’s ranked sixth in the World Cup standings and wasn’t better than 19th in three trial jumps Thursday night.

But history proves Ammann can’t be counted out. He soared to double gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games with a blank résumé of zero World Cup wins and no World Championships medals.

After a dreadful 2006 Olympics, Ammann upstaged Austrian megastar Gregor Schlierenzauer with the longest Olympic jump ever in 2010. Two more golds.

He’s since earned a pilot’s license and married a Russian, the latter inspiring him to make a serious run toward Sochi. Ammann questioned his future following the 2010-11 season.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Ammann said, pointing out the highs of Vancouver and taking part in the 2011 World Championships on the world’s most famous ski jumping hill in Oslo, Norway. “And so I was not able to really get rid of ski jumping. I was trying in one part, but inside I felt that I really have to go on and really get one more task to prove myself – not even prove – but to really find again the core of this sport, to get into this sport with all this extreme games in your mind, which this sport of course has. This is a great game. I’m happy that I really accept it.”

Ammann said his goal in Sochi is one medal. The color doesn’t matter. But to win one gold, a record fifth for a ski jumper, what would that mean?

“First I have to do it, then you can ask me that again,” he joked. “Five medals in our sport, it’s huge. I’m happy with my four. I would be even more happy with a fifth, but just with whatever color the medal is.”

Ammann then paused, thought and waxed on. His reflective words were a stark contrast to his memorable childlike screams following his first gold medal 12 years ago.

“Really, I come here for ski jumping,” Ammann said. “I see it more clearly. In the long-term view in the approach, you see the gold medal. When the first picture comes out, you look at it and think, oh, it’s a nice one. But the closer I get, the more it’s really about the sport because this is what I judge myself at the end.”

Summer McIntosh breaks 400m individual medley world record, extends historic week

Summer McIntosh

Canadian swimmer Summer McIntosh broke her second world record this week, lowering the 400m individual medley mark on Saturday.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old who trains in Sarasota, Florida, clocked 4 minutes, 25.87 seconds at the Canadian Championships in Toronto.

She took down Hungarian Katinka Hosszu‘s world record of 4:26.36 from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Before Saturday, McIntosh had the fourth-fastest time in history of 4:28.61.

“It’s always nice to set world records,” McIntosh said.

On Tuesday, McIntosh broke the 400m freestyle world record, becoming the youngest swimmer to break a world record in an individual Olympic event since Katie Ledecky in 2013.

McIntosh also this week became the fourth-fastest woman in history in the 200m individual medley and the eighth-fastest woman in history in the 200m butterfly.

In each of her four races this week, she also broke the world junior record as the fastest woman in history under the age of 19.

She is entered to swim the 200m free on the meet’s final day on Sunday. She is already the eighth-fastest woman in history in that event.

McIntosh, whose mom swam the 1984 Olympic 200m fly and whose sister competed at last week’s world figure skating championships, placed fourth in the Tokyo Olympic 400m free at age 14.

Last summer, she won the 200m fly and 400m IM at the world championships, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

This summer, she could be at the center of a showdown in the 400m free at the world championships with reigning world champion Ledecky and reigning Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia. They are the three fastest women in history in the event.

Around age 7, McIntosh transcribed Ledecky quotes and put them on her wall.

MORE: McIntosh chose swimming and became Canada’s big splash

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Hilary Knight leads new-look U.S. women’s hockey roster for world championship

Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight headlines a U.S. women’s hockey roster for this month’s world championship that lacks some of the biggest names from last year’s Olympic silver-medal team. Changes have been made as the U.S. looks to end losing streaks to Canada, both overall and in major finals.

The full roster is here. Worlds start Wednesday in Brampton, Ontario, and run through the gold-medal game on April 16.

It was already known that the team would be without stalwart forwards Kendall Coyne Schofield, who plans to return to the national team after having her first child this summer, and Brianna Decker, who announced her retirement last month.

Notable cuts include the No. 1 goalies from the last two Olympics: Alex Cavallini, who returned from Christmas childbirth for the tryout camp this past week, and Maddie Rooney, the breakout of the 2018 Olympic champion team.

Cavallini, 31, was bidding to become the first player to make an Olympic or world team after childbirth since Jenny Potter, who played at the Olympics in 2002, 2006 and 2010 as a mom, plus at several world championships, including less than three months after childbirth in 2007.

Forward Hannah Brandt, who played on the top line at last year’s Olympics with Knight and Coyne Schofield, also didn’t make the team.

In all, 13 of the 25 players on the team are Olympians, including three-time Olympic medalists forward Amanda Kessel and defender Lee Stecklein.

The next generation includes forward Taylor Heise, 23, who led the 2022 World Championship with seven goals and was the 2022 NCAA Player of the Year at Minnesota.

The team includes two teens — 19-year-old defender Haley Winn and 18-year-old forward Tessa Janecke — who were also the only teens at last week’s 46-player tryout camp. Janecke, a Penn State freshman, is set to become the youngest U.S. forward to play at an Olympics or worlds since Brandt in 2012.

Abbey Levy, a 6-foot-1 goalie from Boston College, made her first world team, joining veterans Nicole Hensley and Aerin Frankel.

Last summer, Canada repeated as world champion by beating the U.S. in the final, six months after beating the U.S. in the Olympic final. Canada is on its longest global title streak since winning all five Olympic or world titles between 1999 and 2004.

Also at last summer’s worlds, the 33-year-old Knight broke the career world championship record for points (now up to 89). She also has the most goals in world championship history (53). Knight, already the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s hockey player in history, will become the second-oldest American to play at a worlds after Cammi Granato, who was 34 at her last worlds in 2005.

The Canadians are on a four-game win streak versus the Americans, capping a comeback in their recent seven-game rivalry series from down three games to none. Their 5-0 win in the decider in February was their largest margin of victory over the U.S. since 2005.

Last May, former AHL coach John Wroblewski was named U.S. head coach to succeed Joel Johnson, the Olympic coach.

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