Noriaki Kasai celebrates World Cup comeback at the age of 51

In 1988, Noriaki Kasai made his World Cup debut. He hasn’t stopped ski jumping to this day. And will be back in action in Sapporo this weekend.

Noriaki Kasai was in demand after his leap into the history books. Exactly 24 journalists peppered the ski jumping oldie with questions from all sides, and the Japanese had “only” achieved 45th place in the qualification for the World Cup in Sapporo. But that was exactly enough to pulverize several records.

“I’m glad I made it. But I can do more,” said Kasai, as usual self-critically, after his flight to 106 meters. But the distance was enough for him to compete in the 570th World Cup competition of his career on Saturday at the age of 51. Both numbers are records that only Kasai himself can improve in the future.

Former national coach jumped against Kasai

The ski jumping world can only take its hat off. “It’s really crazy what Noriaki is doing,” said former national coach Werner Schuster on Friday at the Eurosport microphone and added with a smile: “I really had to laugh. I jumped against him myself, and he’s only just jumped jumped against my son in the Continental Cup. He jumps across generations.”

Kasai had narrowly failed twice in qualifying last year in Sapporo, finishing 51st and 55th. Now he has shown himself to be in better form and is taking part in a World Cup competition for the first time since February 2020. In the only training round he even took 23rd place with 125.0 m. “I think he was more nervous than in his World Cup debut,” said Schuster. Kasai made his debut in December 1988 – still in the parallel style.

Kasai’s debut in a parallel style

36 years later, the “pterosaur” is still there – and how. “I worked so hard every day on my stamina, in my mental area and on my weight,” says the 1992 ski flying world champion, who competed in Sapporo as he so often did with a golden helmet: “It’s finally paying off again.”

In fact: In January he came ninth in the Continental Cup, the second highest international competition category, in Sapporo, beating German champion Martin Hamann. The reward was a place in the national group at the World Cup in Sapporo – an opportunity that Kasai now took advantage of.

And who knows, maybe Kasai can even establish himself permanently in the World Cup. Five jumpers recently made up the Japanese team led by Ryōyū Kobayashi, which also included Taku Takeuchi. Takeuchi only finished 52nd in qualifying on Friday and will not take part in the first of two competitions on Saturday.

If Kasai impresses in Sapporo, he could take part in ski flying in Oberstdorf a week later. He once came third on the Heini-Klopfer ski jump. That was in February 2004, exactly 20 years ago.