Ryoyu Kobayashi prevented the longed-for German ski jumping triumph and clearly won the duel with Andreas Wellinger at the Four Hills Tournament. The 27-year-old Japanese completed his third overall victory at the traditional event on Saturday in Bischofshofen with second place on the day (137 and 139 meters).

Olympic champion Wellinger remained second overall in winter tour conditions for the first time after jumps of 132 and 137 meters, but was unable to end the wait for a German overall victory that had been going on since 2002. The Austrian Stefan Kraft took victory in Bischofshofen ahead of Kobayashi and the Slovenian Anze Lanisek. Kraft finished third overall.

Kobayashi and Wellinger, who was fifth on the day, fought a thrilling duel at the highest level over ten days, in which the Japanese improved from station to station. Wellinger’s second place overall will now feel different than in 2018, when he was almost 70 points behind winner Kamil Stoch from Poland.

This time the first German title since Sven Hannawald 22 years ago actually appeared tangible until the final day. Kobayashi caught up with Stoch and the former GDR jumper Helmut Recknagel by winning his third Golden Eagle. Only five-time winner Janne Ahonen from Finland and Jens Weißflog (four) have more titles than specialist Kobayashi, whom the stadium announcer described as “Mister Four Hills Tournament”.

Germany’s hopefuls brought numerous companions with them to the Paul Ausserleitner ski jump, where the young Wellinger had jumped as a schoolboy. Father, sister, brother-in-law, friend and family were at the jump – and also the mother, who was visibly suffering with her son. “It’s really horrible when you can’t help at all. That’s really fucked up,” said Claudia Wellinger, who was waiting in the snow-covered run, on ARD.

From there it was difficult to see the long, flat inrun and the take-off table. “We hope that there will be the same amount of snow or rain or whatever it is,” top jumper Wellinger said about the conditions before the competition. The track had to be cleared of snow with leaf blowers between athletes.

A decent change in the weather was further hope for Wellinger, who went into this showdown as a clear outsider despite a deficit of 4.8 points (the equivalent of 2.67 meters). After all, Kobayashi made the better impression in Pongau right from the start. The tour leader jumped further than Wellinger in all test jumps and the qualification.

Even before the arena opened three and a half hours before the competition, a queue around 200 meters long formed at the entrance. Many fans wanted to secure the best seats as early as possible. Others preferred to get in the mood with beer and deafening party music from huge speakers in the town center. Nobody let the cold, wet winter weather with light snowfall spoil their mood.

The 14,300 spectators saw more German than Austrian flags. That was primarily due to Wellinger, after all Karl Geiger and Pius Paschke, other hopefuls, had long since left the race for the title. Even star coach Jürgen Klopp sent greetings from Liverpool to the German hopeful on the hill: “We keep our fingers crossed for you and believe very, very firmly in the great opportunity.”

Wellinger put in a solid lead in the first round, but rocked his head back and forth rather dissatisfied in the run-out. Around 20 minutes and many snowflakes later, Kobayashi countered impressively and with the best distance of the first round. Completing his third title was just a formality for the Japanese in the second round given his 19-point lead.

Note: This article has been updated.