Japan ski jumper Kasai set to break Olympic record


PYEONGCHANG: Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai could become the first athlete to compete at eight Winter Olympics after being selected for next month’s Pyeongchang Games, officials said on Sunday.

The 45-year-old, who made his Olympic debut at Albertville in 1992, will take sole possession of the record he currently shares — seven appearances — with disgraced Russian luger Albert Demchenko.

Kasai won team silver at Lillehammer in 1994, plus silver for the large hill and team bronze at Sochi in 2014 — making him the oldest Olympic ski jumping medallist.

He also has 17 individual World Cup victories to his name after first joining the tour in 1988.

Kasai, who hails from Japan’s rugged northern island of Hokkaido, joins siblings Junshiro and Ryoyu Kobayashi, Daiki Ito and Taku Takeuchi on his country’s ski jumping team for the February 9-25 Games in Pyeongchang in South Korea.

He enjoys a cult following in ski jump-obsessed Finland, where Helsinki punk band Van Dammes recorded a tribute single called “Mr Noriaki Kasai” in 2014. Polish rapper Koldi has also penned a song about the Japanese legend.

Demchenko, who won a silver medal in Sochi, was one of 11 Russian athletes banned for life by the International Olympic Committee last December for doping offences at those Games four years ago.