Switzerland is not known for having a tremendous ski jumping team but they do have one man who could affect other countries medal hopes drastically.
Simon Ammann currently ranks first in World Cup standings and is expected to be a top contender once again in the K90 and K120 competitions.
After a miserable performance in Torino, Ammann looks to be back into his 2002 form where he won two gold medals in Salt Lake City.
“Am I stronger than ever? It’s difficult to say but my jumps are perhaps more stable and I am winning effectively”, he told international news channel France 24.
With the likes of Gregor Schlierenzauer and Tomas Morgenstern, Austria have four of the top five ski jumpers on the World Cup circuit this season. After dominating the world stage for the past two years, picking up 31 World Cup events, Schlierenzauer is a favourite to take home some hardware.
However if the 20-year-old is going to be shocked by anyone, he doesn’t need to look any further than his own dressing room.
Tomas Morgenstern, who won the gold in the K120 race in Torino, Martin Koch, Andreas Kofler and Wolfgang Loitzl all have a chance to medal and Schlierenzauer enjoys the competitive atmosphere.
“We push each other to the top all the time,” he said to online newspaper Earth Times.
Austria won the team K120 hill in 2006 and with an improved core of ski jumpers; a repeat is not out of the question.
Janne Ahonen called it quits after Torino, but after seeing the struggles of Finnish ski jumping following his exit in 2007, he thought he owed it to his country to compete one more time.
Ahonen has led the Finnish large hill team to two straight silver medals and going into Vancouver, he feels the skies the limit.
“I’m capable of anything,” Ahonen said to France 24.
Speaking of Olympic success, Matt Hautamaeki has picked up four medals in his career.
In Torino he came just short of medaling in all three events, finishing fifth in large hill. Albeit an impressive resume, Hautamaeki is yet to achieve a gold medal and perhaps this is the year he brings one home from to Finland.
This will be the final time Ahonen and Hautamaeki compete together so look for Finland to make an impact in the medal totals.
Norway picked up four out of a possible nine medals in Torino but with Lars Bystoel and Roar Ljoekelsoey long gone, the torch of Norwegian ski jumping is being passed on.
Anders Jacobsen, Johan Remen Evensen, and Bjoern Einar Romoeren headline a team trying to continue its countries success.
Norway leads all countries with 28 medals in ski jumping since the sport became an Olympic event in 1924. Jacobsen and Remen Evensen have not been overly impressive in the World Cup circuit this year but Einar Romoeren currently sits seventh in the standings.
Although Norway does not look great on paper, the confidence of country dominance in ski jumping could will these athletes to impress in Vancouver.
“Team spirit is also important and in that field we are better than many others, “Norwegian sports-director Clas Brede Brathan told Universal Sports. “We can benefit from that.”
Although Team Canada will be lucky to finish in the top 20 of the major competitions, our young core of talent look to be building toward the future.
The team consisting of Stefan Read, Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes, Trevor Morrice and Eric Mitchell, who is Canada’s youngest athlete at 17-years-old, are banking on low expectations to fly under the radar.
“There’s not a lot of stress on these guys,” told team leader Brent Morrice told the Toronto Star. “They can relax and have fun and do the best we can, build the sport as best we can.”
Canadian ski jumping is severely under budgeted compared to the powerhouses in Austria and Finland but with a solid commitment, maybe Canada can make some noise in 2014.